Press release

Children and young people with SEN to benefit from new legal health duty

Children and young adults with special educational needs will benefit from a new legal health duty.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Children and young adults with special educational needs (SEN) will benefit from better access to health services, the Government announced today.

Clinical commissioning groups are GPs who plan local health services. The new duty will mean that they will by law have to secure services in education, health and care plans for children and young adults. This will include specialist services like physiotherapy, and speech and language therapy.

At present councils have a legal duty to make sure that children and young adults with the most complex needs get the support they need to develop and become as independent as possible later in life. However, some parents have complained that health services can fall between the gaps.

Edward Timpson, Children and Families Minister, said:

We are putting health at the centre of our reforms in bringing in this legal duty. It is a significant step forward for children and young adults with special educational needs, and I know that many parents will welcome it.

The duty will mean that parents, and children and young adults with complex special educational needs, will get the health services that are right for them.

This legal duty will mean in practice that health services work better with education and care services. It will, together with other reforms, give valuable reassurance to parents of children and young adults who will have education, health and care plans. The duty will help to ensure that councils, health professionals and volunteers come together to organise services, and set out a clear expectation of what parents, children and young adults with special educational needs will get.

This measure is a part of an overhaul of provision for SEN which will put parents and their children firmly in control. The reforms, which are being trialled in 31 pathfinder council areas, include:

  • personal budgets which put parents firmly in charge;
  • the extension of support until the age of 25 to stop the cliff-edge effect;
  • the replacement of SEN statements with more comprehensive education, health and care plans; and
  • better cooperation between all the services that support children and their families.

Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter said:

We are determined that children and young people should be put at the heart of the new health and social care system. That is why we and many other organisations with the power to make a difference recently pledged to do everything possible to improve children’s health. This is an example of that pledge becoming a reality.

It will put those who provide local health, education and care services firmly in the driving seat to make sure children with special educational needs get tailored, individual care. It is excellent news for children, families and carers across the country.

Christine Lenehan, Director of the Council for Disabled Children, said:

Many children and young adults with special educational needs depend on health services. I am really pleased that their needs are being taken seriously. This legal duty should help to improve their lives.

The Government also published a report today which demonstrates that the new reforms to help children and young people with SEN are progressing well. This comes as the Government announces more funding, up to £600,000 in 2013-14, for 20 pathfinder councils to drive forward these reforms. This will mean that each region will have a pathfinder champion to provide advice, support and ideas on how to implement the reforms to help families.

The report shows that:

  • parents are actively involved with councils and health services in drawing up plans for their children and young adults;
  • parents are taking advantage of the offer of personal budgets, which give them more control over their lives; and
  • public agencies are working well together to provide services; and
  • a survey has found that most parents with education, health and care plans feel positive about the new reforms.

Around 440 families have now received new education, health and care plans as part of the trial, which includes making sure that support for children with special educational needs does not simply stop when they turn 18. The new reforms mean that support can continue up until the age of 25 for those in education and training, to help them lead independent lives and find places to work.

The survey of parents with completed education, health and care plans found that most parents were pleased their views were being taken into account, and that services were working together for the benefit of their children.

This trial will continue until September 2014. The special educational needs reforms will be discussed at the committee stage of the Children and Families Bill in mid-March, and are set to become law in 2014.

Notes to editors

1.The SEN Pathfinder Programme Report is available in the SEND section of the Department’s website.

  1. The pathfinder champions for nine English regions are: Bromley and Bexley for London; SE7 (made up of seven council areas) and Southampton for the south-east; Wiltshire for the south-west; Hartlepool for the north-east; Leicester City for the East Midlands; Hertfordshire for the east of England; Solihull for the West Midlands; North Yorkshire and Calderdale for Yorkshire and Humber; and the Greater Manchester Group, made up of Wigan, Trafford and Manchester) for the north-west.

  2. This legal duty will be introduced as an amendment to the Children and Families Bill.

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Published 5 March 2013