On 7th January 2014 the Department for Education issued a significant Press Release, entitled ‘£30 million for new special educational needs champions’ in the policy category ‘Increasing options and improving provision for children with special educational needs (SEN)’. This explained the role of the Council for Disabled Children and the plans to introduce ‘independent supporters’.
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New £30 million fund for more than 1,800 independent supporters to help parents navigate the new special educational needs process.
More than 1,800 champions will be on hand from this September to help parents navigate the new special educational needs process following a £30 million funding boost, announced today by Children and Families Minister Edward Timpson.
The £30 million will be used to recruit and train a pool of ‘independent supporters’ – champions drawn from independent voluntary, community and private organisations to help the families of children and young people with special educational needs (SEN) through the new process following comprehensive reforms to support.
Edward Timpson, Minister for Children and Families, said:
Our new £30 million fund will allow families to access help and support from more than 1,800 fully-trained champions across the country. I know from speaking to many parents how much they value any support in helping them access the services their children need.
Independent supporters will be able to spend one-to-one time with families giving them the independent help and advice they need to progress through the new SEN assessment and education, health and care planning process. This will ensure that every child and young person with SEN can take full advantage of our reforms.
Independent supporters will be available every step of the way for families as they navigate the new system, which will provide much greater integration of vital services and one system for children and young people with SEN from birth to 25.
Where there is disagreement, independent supporters will also make sure councils understand what families want, and help families to challenge decision making so children with SEN receive the support they really need.
The Council for Disabled Children (CDC) will ensure that a range of organisations provide this totally independent help, overseeing the recruitment and training of the independent supporters – around 12 per area – in time for the implementation of our comprehensive SEN reforms.
Christine Lenehan, Council for Disabled Children Director, said:
Council for Disabled Children is pleased to be leading on this piece of work alongside its remit as the department’s strategic reform partner. Independent support will become a valuable resource to help and support parents of children with SEN and young people, parent partnership services and local authorities, as we all move towards implementing the reforms and local offer. We look forward to working with a wide range of private, voluntary a community sector partners as we develop proposals further.
The Children and Families Bill, which is currently progressing through Parliament, will make significant improvements to the support available for children with SEN, including:
- replacing SEN statements and learning disability assessments with a new birth-to-25 education, health and care plan – setting out in 1 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 colleges – currently limited to maintained mainstream and special schools
- Council for Disabled Children will now trial the training, recruitment and funding allocation, which will conclude in the spring.
- This spring Council for Disabled Children will invite applications from private, voluntary and community sector organisations who believe they can offer independent supporters from within their ranks.
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The above Press Release followed a major Policy Statement, published on 4th October 2013.
This explained the intentions and aspirations of current government policy on SEN, and specifically the consultation process which led to the introduction of the Children and Families Bill.
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Increasing options and improving provision for children with special educational needs (SEN)
Children and young people who are identified as having special educational needs (SEN
) can struggle to get the support they need to do well. It can often take too long for their families to find out that their child needs extra help. Also, the system of support available to children and young people with SEN
is very complex, with teachers, health workers and social care workers often working separately to meet the particular needs of a child or young person.
We want to deal with the problems that prevent children and young people with SEN
from getting the support and services they need. We want to make sure they all have the same opportunities as everyone else and that they receive the necessary support to transition well into adulthood. We will introduce a more effective, transparent and accountable system of support for children and young people with SEN
To improve the support system for children and young people with SEN
and their families, we will:
- introduce a single assessment process for education, health and care and include parents of children and young people with SEN in the assessment process
- replace SEN statements and learning difficulty assessments with an education, health and care plan for children and young people with SEN aged 0 to 25 years
- introduce the option of personal budgets for young people and parents of children and with SEN so they can choose which services are best for their family
- make sure local commissioners work together in the interest of children and young people with SEN and improve communication between institutions and services
- run a series of trials covering 31 local authorities to test the SEN green paper reforms and use the outcomes to revise regulations and the SEN code of practice
To improve educational provision for pupils with SEN
, we will:
- make sure all state-funded schools and colleges, including maintained schools, free schools and academies, are fully brought into the support system for children with SEN
- fund degree-level specialist training for talented support staff working with children with SEN
- give young people with SEN in further education and training similar rights and protections as those for children with SEN under 16
- put in place supported internships, an employer-based study programme designed to help young people with SEN learn the skills they need for the workplace
On 10 December 2010, we asked parents, charities, teachers and local authorities to contribute to the government’s SEN
green paper. The aim was to find ways to identify the needs of children and young people earlier, make it easier for families to receive the support they need, and develop fairer and more transparent funding arrangements.
The publication of the green paper ‘Support and aspiration: a new approach to special educational needs and disability’ on 11 March 2011 marked the start of a period of consultation and testing of the proposals in local areas. On 21 September 2011 we introduced 20 schemes to test the reforms in 31 different local authorities.
As a result of the green paper consultation, we published the report ‘Support and aspiration: a new approach to special educational needs and disability – progress and next steps’ in May 2012. The report set out the progress made on the SEND
green paper proposals and outlined the next steps to follow.
Who we’ve consulted
The call for views ‘Green paper: children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities’ was open from 10 September to 15 October 2010. The responses we received contributed to the proposals set out in the SEND
We ran a formal consultation following the publication of the green paper. The consultation ‘Support and aspiration: a new approach to special educational needs and disability’ ran from 11 March to 30 June 2011. We sought the views of all those with an interest in SEND
and received 2,378 responses, including many from parents.
On 4 October 2013, we launched a consultation on:
- the draft SEN code of practice
- the regulations associated to the new SEN code of practice
- the arrangements we should put in place to replace SEN statements and learning difficulty assessments with a single education, health and care plan for children and young people with SEN
The consultation will close on 9 December 2013.
Bills and legislation
In February 2013, we introduced a Children and Families Bill to make the changes to the law that are required for the green paper reforms. The bill sets out the duties for all the agencies involved in providing services for children and young people with SEN
In March 2013, we published indicative draft regulations and draft guidance, called a code of practice, to provide more detail about how the law will work in practice. We launched a consultation on the regulations and a full draft code of practice on 4 October 2013. We expect to introduce these in September 2014.
Who we’re working with
>We are working with a range of organisations, including the Council for Disabled Children. They are developing and sharing the voluntary sector’s expertise in supporting children and young people with SEND
and their families.
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Rescare remains committed to the right of children and young adults with learning disabilities to access appropriate educational provision; to the parental right to choice; and to the validity of special schools and colleges as an appropriate option depending on individual circumstance.
Rescare continues to have concerns that children with learning disabilities are not offered suitable or appropriate educational provision after the age of 16. The inadequacies of provision for those between 16 and 25 were highlighted in a National Audit Office Report in 2011, and its implications considered in the SEND Green Paper. “…parents, students and local authorities do not always have the information they need to choose the school or college that best meets the young person’s needs given the available funding. Assessments of young people’s needs vary in quality, and local authorities do not always consider the full costs to the public purse of different placement options.”
“Independent supporters will be available every step of the way for families as they navigate the new system, which will provide much greater integration of vital services and one system for children and young people with SEN from birth to 25.” This is an admirable aspiration: we will wait to see what is finally delivered.