Priory Group’s Director of Autism, Allison Hope-West explains the top line changes affecting Special Educational Needs introduced by this new act.
The Children and Families Bill
The Children and Families Bill was passed through Parliament in March of this year. It becomes live in September. Alongside this a new SEN (Special Educational Needs) Code of Practice was agreed in June 2014. The core changes that will affect young people with SEN are that the Local Authority will draw up an EHC (Education Health and Care) plan rather than a Statement of SEN. The Local Authority have been tasked with publishing a ‘local offer’ which outlines services available in the local area. They have also been directed to offer all students a personal budget. Some authorities were chosen to be ‘Pathfinders’ and have tested out the new system.
Education, health and social care
The Act focuses on joint co-operation between education, health and social care. Its stated aims include giving parents and young people more choice. There has been an extension of SEN law to include academies and free schools and this will now cover young people up to the age of 25. EHC plans will also be accessed by students who are NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training). Parents will now be able to use mediation when seeking an education provision or they can choose not to. Finally the SEN Code of Practice calls for more detailed information to be included on the EHC on what constitutes ‘good practice’ and the benefit of specific interventions.
Forthcoming SEN reforms
There are still some parts of the Act that require further clarity. Ed Timpson, the Children & Families Minister in charge of the SEN reforms has stated that no one will lose a Statement without it being replaced with an EHC plan although this is not written in statute. He has also stated that parents can still apply for a Statement until 31st of August 2014. It is not clear how the Health and Care provision in the EHC will be enforced as Local Authorities have not been tasked with this responsibility. Furthermore they cannot be appealed through the existing route.
EHC plans will still include communication and interaction, cognition and learning, social and emotional plus mental health difficulties and sensory and/or physical needs. A major change to process is that young people with a disability but no SEN will not be issued with an EHC plan. The need to develop an IEP(Individual Education Plan) has now also been removed from the Code of Practice.
Timescales involved in implementation
There has been a very short lead time to implement the Act, and some authorities are struggling to be on target with the changes. The response has been varied with some being on line to replace all Statements to plans by Christmas and others looking at a much longer time frame. The Act represents some of the biggest reforms in SEN. Hopefully once the Act becomes embedded we will see more choice for parents and young people and more joined up thinking between education, health and care.
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