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Friday, 1 March 2013

Changes to Children and Families Bill for #SEN children

I'm very excited. Thanks to Tots100, in a couple of weeks time I will be having a cup of tea with
Edward Timpson, the Minister with responsibility for special educational needs (SEN) and disabilities. I'd have gone without the offer of a cuppa to be honest (and it's not often I say that). 

We will be 'chatting' about the changes being proposed in the Children and Families Bill, which is currently going through parliament. More specifically, we will be focusing on what those changes mean to children with Special Needs, and giving our opinions on how the law needs to be changed. 

If you have a spare few minutes (ha!), the Bill can be found here and SEN is in part 3: Children and Families Bill.

I will have to admit that despite considering myself to have been fairly well educated, I struggle with any kind of political and legal jargon. I guess they have to produce it, but I sure don't have the time to try and fathom out what it all means. Luckily, there are some other great websites around which do a great job of simplifying the information.

IPSEA is a national charity providing free legally based advice to families who have children with special educational needs. All their advice is given by trained volunteers, and they do a great job. You can read their thoughts on the SEN changes here: IPSEA Key messages
They are also writing a blog with answers to frequently asked questions on the proposed changes - see http://ipsea.blogspot.co.uk/.

According to the NAS (National Autistic Society), the changes, which are being introduced as part of the Children and Families Bill, include:
  • replacement of Statements with new Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP)
  • new duties on local authorities and NHS bodies to work together to commission services
  • extension of the system to cover young people in further education up to the age of 25.
Our family has recently become a 'Pathfinder' family. This means that our council is one of a handful around the country who are currently testing out these new methods and feeding back on what has worked. Today I'm about to go to our annual Statement Review for Sasha, and this will be followed by our first meeting about the single EHCP plan (Education, Health and Care). 

My first impressions are that the new paperwork is much more user friendly, but we need to be able to ensure that actions on it are followed through, and for that we need the words in this Bill to be SMART - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time scaled. 

Currently the words in the Bill mean that only the education part of the plan will be enforced. There is no legal requirement for Health and Social Care to be involved so there are limits to what can be achieved. It is noticeable that Social care have offered us nothing and Health has given us minimal support - assuming SALT falls under health, but I am never quite sure. In any case, I'm not actually sure I could testify that SALT have given us much support anyhow.

There is also a glaring omission with regards to fixing timescales - timing is so key for parents who need to know that 'something' will happen by a certain date, rather than being left in limbo and going round in circles trying to gain help for their child.  

Our SEN diagnosis is autism, but there are many other SEN children with a different diagnosis who are also affected by this bill. I wonder how many of them have heard of Early Support - a great government initiative which only seems to have been taken on board and used properly in certain counties (certainly not ours). In their words 'Early Support is the central Government mechanism for achieving better coordinated, family focused services for disabled children, young people and their families across England.'  

To me it does seem as if there is a fair amount of thinking going on (albeit sometimes directed by and for professionals, rather than for the families involved), but very little of it is joined up and actually going anywhere - does that describe Government as a whole though?!


I'll admit to liking the sound of Edward Timpson's original words on this matter:
The Bill will…give children and young people with special educational needs and their families better co-ordinated support, and more choice and control over how that support is provided.
Every measure in the Bill is driven by one simple objective: our determination to improve the outcomes for all children and families in our society, whatever their start in life and whoever they may be.
His heart may be in the right place.... his words are easy to say, but are they easy to put into practise? Can he back them up by adding the right words into this Bill? I'll be asking him that, and how he is really gong to make a difference, and I'd love to take along any of my readers' comments. I think it's incredibly important that these politicians listen to real life issues, and not just work on where they perceive the problems to be. So please leave me any questions you have for Mr Timpson and I'll do my very best to get you an answer.

 

10 comments:

  1. If you are looking at the Bill itself, there are explantory notes published - you can find them here: http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2012-13/childrenandfamilies/documents.html - they are meant to explain what each individual clause of the Bill is intended to do. So if you're not used to looking at bills you should definitely only look at them in conjunction with the explanatory notes!

    Of course, the briefings provided by various charities, small and large, are very helpful for summarising the key issues.

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  2. So the aim is good but the policies and practice may not match up? Wishing you the very best for a good outcome to your meeting with Edwards Timpson x

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    1. Exactly right. No point in having the first without the second though...

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  3. Wishing you the best for your meeting; unfortunately I can't attend as I'm working and I can't let down the student I'm supporting. Its interesting but our town does do Early Support but I have no idea what it actually entails. Is it for young children as the name suggests? Would explain why we're not benefiting from it and why we're feeling very unsupported at the moment.

    The one question that is bugging me is this. With the ECHP extending to the age of 25, how will the government ensure that there will be enough FE/college provision to support the needs of disabled young people post the age of 16? (Or something like that; as far as I am aware there aren't enough local FE places for post 16 year olds.)

    All the best. Deb x

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    1. Good point, and I will ask about post 16. It irritates me immensely that they haven't planned ahead for the future, and still doesn't seem as if they are doing. Like, let's ignore the problem and maybe it'll go away? Er, no.
      Early support was an initiative for 0-5s originally but it has now been extended to 25 also, so anyone with a diagnosis should now be able to go and ask a professional and get more help that way.... sadly not all professionals believe in it as a way of working so results are inconsistent.

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  4. Hope you enjoy the meeting and get some answers to your questions. The SEN policy fails to help where it should. My daughter pulled my grandson out of school and is home schooling him as the school could not cope with his complex medical needs safely without isolating him.

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    1. It's true that it is a lottery and down to what the individual school is prepared to offer. Sad that we have to fight for so much more on top of the other daily battles we already have x

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  5. Hi, I'm a uni student and am doing some research on the Children and Families Bill 2013. came across your blog on google and just wanted to ask how your experience with your Pathfinder council has been?

    I just finished reading the SEND Pathfinder Programme Report (March 2013) and it seemed to be reporting practically completely positive outcomes, but didn't seem to engage with the flaws of some of the provisions in the Bill. Just wanted to see if it has really been all so smooth-sailing?

    your girls are lovely by the way and i've contributed £2 so Tamsin could reach her comic relief target :)

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    1. Hi Claire, thank you so so much for that £2, that really did mke my big girl's day!! We have only just recently started the pathfinder process, so all a bit last minute for us. Had one positive meeting so far, and I think the new paperwork is good, but there are deinite glaring omissions which need to be sorted - such as timescales. I'll update our progress on here in the next couple of weeks, so feel free to check back.... thank you again!

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