A major overhaul of the support available for young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), that will give families greater control and choice over the care their children receive, has been welcomed by the SE7 group of councils.
The reforms are set out in the wide-ranging Children and Families Bill. Many of the SEND reforms, originally outlined in a Green Paper in 2011, were tested and developed by the SE7 pathfinder group, following a successful bid to the Government for pathfinder status, led by East Sussex County Council.
SE7 is a collaboration of authorities involving Surrey County Council, East Sussex County Council, Brighton and Hove City Council, Kent County Council, Hampshire County Council, Medway Council and West Sussex County Council. The area serves 1.3 million children including more than 24,000 with special educational needs.
The councils in the SE7 pathfinder worked closely with Primary Care Trusts, Parent Carer Forums and other agencies to ensure that families are central to the way a child’s needs are assessed and to the support they receive.
The Government has acknowledged the role of the local pathfinders and much of that work has been reflected in the bill, which includes measures on:
- replacing statements of SEN with a single assessment and single education, health and care plan, from birth to 25
- offering families personal budgets so that they have more control over the support they need;
- improving co-operation between all the services that support children and their families, with local authorities and health authorities working closely together;
- ensuring local authorities involve children, young people and parents in reviewing and developing provision for those children with SEND and publish a local offer detailing all the help and support that is available.
The Government said the continuing work of the pathfinders would be “essential in helping us to make sure we get the regulations right”. It has, therefore, extended funding until September 2014.
It will also offer additional funding to some local pathfinders to be ‘champions’, to help implement the reforms and support other local authorities to do so. The SE7 pathfinder has applied to be a ‘champion’ and will hear the outcome of its bid later this month.
Notes for Editors
For more details on the Government’s Children and Families Bill visit the Department for Education website at http://www.education.gov.uk/inthenews/inthenews/a00221178/candfbill
The policies are those for children who have disabilities, and those with learning, emotional or behavioural difficulties. It applies to children and young people aged 0-25. There have been 20 areas in the country where local authorities and their Primary Care Trusts have been developing the trying new approaches to special educational needs and disabilities, and the SE7 is the largest.
East Sussex County Council is one of seven major councils across the South East to have entered into the formal SE7 collaboration to achieve potentially massive savings while improving the quality of local services.
The SE7 councils cover a population of 5.3 million people and are responsible for net budgets worth £3.4 billion per annum.
By working together through joint contracts, sharing information, skills and resources the South-East authorities will actively seek opportunities to reduce costs and improve services.
A range of different council services are being examined by the SE7 and East Sussex County Council is leading on reforms to special educational needs. Surrey County Council is responsible for roads.