SEN draft code of practice ‘fails to deliver joined-up support for families'

By Derren Hayes

| 10 December 2013

The Every Disabled Child Matters (EDCM) group has criticised a key plank of the government's special educational needs (SEN) reforms and is calling for major changes to be made before the legislation is passed.

Every Disabled Child Matters says without revision, the government's reforms could undermine parents’ confidence in the new system. Picture: EDCM

EDCM said in its current form the draft SEN code of practice fails to deliver the government’s promised joined-up system of support for families, and could in fact undermine other aspects of the Children and Families Bill that place a greater emphasis on joint working and improving outcomes.

Published in October, the draft code regulations set out legal duties for local authorities and other agencies involved in delivering SEN services to be introduced from next September. The draft code sets out responsibilities for local authorities to manage a new needs-assessment process with statutory timescales to ensure quicker decisions are made on whether support is to be provided and what form it takes. Education, health and care plans will co-ordinate support for all children and young people aged up to 25.

In its submission to the consultation on the draft code, EDCM said the reforms are far less aspirational than its 2011 green paper, Support and Aspiration.

It particular, it fails to provide schools, health services and local authorities with clear information about their responsibilities under the bill or best practice guidance on how to make the new system work.

It also fails to empower parents and young people to hold the system accountable; and does not require commissioners of health, education or care services to consider the needs of disabled children and young people without SEN, nor take them into account in the local offer.

It describes a weakened statutory framework for the majority of children and young people with SEN, who will not have an education, health and care plan.

Beatrice Barleon, EDCM campaign manager, said: “We welcome the government’s move towards improving joint working between education, health and social care and this promises to deliver improved outcomes for children and young people with SEN.

“However, in its current form, the code of practice fails to provide the practical guidance needed into how the new system of support for children with SEN should work effectively. It requires significant revision to ensure that it does not undermine parents’ confidence in the new system or the government’s ambitions for reform, which have been widely welcomed.

“EDCM is particularly concerned that the code does not describe in sufficient detail how the system will improve outcomes for children with SEN who do not meet the threshold for an education, health and care plan, nor take into account the needs of disabled children without SEN for joined-up services as well.”

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