Press release

Parents feel more supported ahead of radical SEND reforms

Findings published today show families test-driving new special educational needs and disabilities system feel more supported than ever.

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

Family holding hands

New findings published today show families test-driving the government’s new special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) system feel more supported than ever.

An independent report into the new support, available from this September, shows that the measures are already making a real difference to the lives of children, young people and families. The biggest transformation to SEND support for 30 years will give children and parents greater say over their personalised care and assistance, and put in place a new, continual birth-to-25 system for children and young people with SEND.

The news comes as SEND support enters the digital age with the launch of a brand new app that will give children and young people a voice in sharing important information about their needs in a simple, single place.

The Council for Disabled Children’s Early Support app will enable children and young people with special educational needs to upload details about their condition and the support they are receiving to share with people closely involved in their life, such as teachers and doctors. In turn, it will make it easier for those working with children and young people with SEND to understand their needs in an easy and straightforward way.

In using the app - and sharing their likes and dislikes and hopes for the future - young people can make sure the help they get is tailored to their needs and their voice heard in important decisions made about their lives. Strict safeguards will also be put in place to ensure their safety and privacy.

Children and Families Minister, Edward Timpson said:

It’s great news that families who’ve tested our reforms ahead of September are now saying they have more control over how and where they access support for their children.

For far too long, too many families have had to fight for the support they need. The new system will put children and young people first.

It’s vital that children and young people with SEND can have their say on important decisions affecting their future. The pioneering early support app will give young people a simple, single place to set out their needs to those who work with them - creating a digital link between the young person and their key professionals.

Findings from the pilots of the measures - being test-driven by families across 31 councils - also show that professionals are more supportive of the system, saying it helps them to work more effectively together and places families at the centre of the system. Professionals are also able to provide more tailored support to families, giving them the help and assistance they need.

A special online guide for parents has also been published today on which clearly explains what the new changes will mean for their child, how the new system will work, and what help they should expect from their local education, health and social services.

From this September, a new package of ambitious changes transforming the support on offer will come into force. The new system will:

  • replace SEND 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
  • require better co-operation between councils and health services to make sure services for children and young people with SEND and disabilities are jointly planned and commissioned
  • give parents and young people with education, health and care plans the offer of a personal budget - putting families firmly in charge
  • require 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
  • introduce mediation for disputes and trial giving children and young people the right to appeal if they are unhappy with their support
  • introduce 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

These new changes will be phased in from September 2014 - ensuring all children and young people with SEND and their families can benefit from the improved arrangements as soon as possible, while at the same time ensuring that the best possible service is maintained during the transition.

Around 2,500 families have now received the new Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plans as part of the pilot pathfinder programme, ensuring that support for children with special educational needs does not simply stop when they turn 18. The new reforms also mean that support can continue up until the age of 25 for those with an EHC plan who need more time to complete their further education or training.

Notes to editor

  1. Read the SEND pathways programme evaluation’ pathfinder reports. Findings about parental satisfaction are based on qualitative research conducted with 31 families between January 2014 and early March 2014 who participated in the new Education, Health and Care (EHC) planning pathway and as a result, received an EHC plan.

  2. Read the SEND: guide for parents and carers’’.

  3. The Council for disabled children ‘Early support app’ is being trialled with tablet users.

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Published 15 August 2014