Parents of children with special educational needs (SEN) are happier than ever with the new support available and have much more control over the services they are receiving.
The biggest transformation to SEN support for 30 years - currently making its way through Parliament - will give children and parents greater say over their personalised care and assistance, and put in place a new birth-to-25 system for children and young people with SEN. The government has also announced a £70 million SEN reform grant which will be made available to councils as they prepare to implement these ambitious changes.
Findings from the pilots of the measures - being test-driven by over 2,000 families across 31 councils - show that:
- parents feel more empowered and supported and are happier with the services they are receiving, with 88% saying their views had been taken into consideration
- professionals are overwhelmingly supportive of the new approaches and feel they bring about a more family-centred way of working
- councils are gearing up for the introduction of the reforms in September 2014, with the majority laying the groundwork for the new system
Children and Families Minister, Edward Timpson, said:
Too many families have had to battle with a system that’s supposed to help them. This is simply unacceptable, and is why we’re transforming the system so that it meets with the needs of children and young people with SEN - from birth right up to the age of 25, where required. I’m confident that the additional £70 million we have made available to councils will help implement our comprehensive reforms, ensuring better support.
The experiences of families testing our reforms prove they are already giving families more say and greater control over the assistance they receive. With less than a year to go until the rollout of the new system, councils must now redouble their efforts to ensure all families can benefit as quickly as possible from this comprehensive support.
Our SEN reforms will bring forward a new, joined-up approach across education, health and care services from birth to 25 to ensure that support is made available at the earliest possible point, and children and young people fully involved in decisions about their care and what they want to achieve.
Through the bill, the government is:
- replacing SEN statements and learning disability assessments with a new birth-to-25 education, health and care plan - setting out in one place all the support families will receive
- requiring better co-operation between councils and health services to make sure services for children and young people with SEN and disabilities are jointly planned and commissioned
- giving parents and young people with education, health and care plans the offer of a personal budget - putting families firmly in charge
- requiring councils to publish a ‘local offer’ showing the support available to all disabled children and young people and their families in the area - not just those with educational needs
- introducing mediation for disputes and trialling giving children and young people the right to appeal if they are unhappy with their support
- introducing a new legal right for children and young people with an education, health and care plan to express a preference for state academies, free schools and further education (FE) colleges - currently limited to maintained mainstream and special schools
Christine Lenehan, Director, Council for Disabled Children, said:
We are pleased to be working with government on the reforms which are already delivering better outcomes for families. We look forward to this opportunity being available to all families and looking at real integration for children with SEN and disabilities.
Mark Rogers, President, Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers (SOLACE) said:
As the chief executive of a pathfinder site, I know just how important it is to fully understand and implement these reforms. Councils are champions for all children, especially those with additional needs, and I take very seriously both the opportunity and responsibility that this transformation presents - particularly the chance we have to put in a place a system that serves children and families first and foremost, and puts lives before services.
The government has also extended the scope of its reforms to include disabled children and young people who do not have special educational needs - requiring councils to identify and support the needs of all disabled children and young people, not just those relating to education.
Around 1,400 families have now received the new education, health and care plans as part of the Pathfinder programme, ensuring that support for children with special education needs does not simply stop when they turn 18. The new reforms mean that support can continue up until the age of 25 for who need more time to complete their education or training, to help prepare them to lead independent lives and find places to work.
Notes to editor
- the Children and Families Bill is currently in report stage. The bill is expected to receive royal assent in Spring 2014
- the pathfinder evaluation reports ‘Evaluation of the Green Paper Support Contracts’ and ‘Evaluation of the SEND pathfinder programme’ are available on the SEND pathfinder website