Under the new system, due to be introduced in September next year, SEN statements will be replaced by single education, health and care plans, requiring co-operation between all local services.
But speaking at the annual Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) conference in Manchester, Timpson warned that preparing for the change would not be easy.
He said that areas trialling the new arrangements – which will place a new duty on health services to work with local authorities to assess and meet a child or young person’s needs – had found the process to be challenging.
“Experience from the pathfinders tells us it is a long, hard journey to get the culture change needed to make these reforms work on the ground,” he said.
“It takes a long time to turn our systems around so that they truly operate with the needs of families at their heart.”
In total, there are 20 pathfinders trialling the new arrangements.
Timpson highlighted good progress in Southampton, which has developed an integrated health and social care service that reduces duplication of assessments, and Bromley, which is establishing an integrated 0 to 25 service.
He said other councils should begin preparing for the changes immediately. “You don’t have to wait for the legislation to begin making the change – in fact, you shouldn’t,” he said.
“Richmond isn’t a pathfinder, but it has already begun to involve parents and carers in developing education, health and care plans, personalised budgets and a local offer.”
Timpson said the government has also set up “pathfinder champions” and is funding a number of voluntary and community sector organisations, including the Council for Disabled Children, to help local authorities with the process.