In what is being touted as the “the biggest reform of SEN for 30 years” the government has announced this week that parents are to be given the power to control personal budgets for their children with severe, profound or multiple health and learning disabilities.
Families relocating with children with special educational needs (SEN) know only too well the challenges of moving to a new area and battling with a new local authority and coping with delays and bureaucracy. The current system has been criticised for being “outdated, slow and complex.”
Sarah Teather, Children’s Minister, said that the reforms would stop the “agonising battle many parents fight to get the support for their families, as they are forced to go from 'pillar to post' between different authorities and agencies.”
Currently it often is not clear to parents, and to local services, who is responsible for delivering on the statement of special needs, the commitment to a level of service from a local authority, health and education services.
The government announced that it will be scrapping SEN statements and replacing them with separate ‘Learning Difficulty Assessments’ (for older children) alongside a single, ‘birth to 25’ assessment process and an ‘Education, Health and Care Plan’ from 2014. Parents with the plans would have the right to a personal budget for their support.
Under the current system, the statement of SEN comes to an end when the child reaches 16. According to the government, the new system will help young people into employment and independent living.
Local authorities and health services will be now be required to link up services for disabled children and young people – so they are jointly planned and commissioned. One of the most encouraging pieces of news for those involved in helping to relocate families with SEN children within England is the announcement that local authorities and health services will be required to publish a local offer showing the support available to disabled children and young people and those with SEN, and their families.
Children with SEN under the reforms would have a new legal right to seek a place at state academies and Free Schools – currently it is limited to maintained mainstream and special schools. Local authorities would have to name the parent’s preferred school so long it was suitable for the child.
Children's Minister, Sarah Teather, commented on the government’s announcement, “These reforms will put parents in charge. We trust parents to do the right thing for their own child because they know what is best. The right to a personal budget will give them real choice and control of care, instead of councils and health services dictating how they get support.”