Councils 'need time' to deliver SEN reforms

By Derren Hayes

| 05 September 2014

The Council for Disabled Children (CDC) has called for local authorities to be given time to fully implement the special education needs and disability (SEND) reforms.

Children with SEN and disabilities will have the option of using personal budgets to purchase care under the reforms.

Christine Lenehan, CDC director, said it may be some weeks before all areas are properly delivering key elements of the SEND reforms, a number of which came into force at the beginning of the month.

For example, Lenehan said she was aware that some councils had still not published on their website a “local offer” drawn up with families, giving details of all the support available to disabled children, young people and their families in the area.

She added: “Some have raised concerns not all the local offers are up yet. I think we need to give people a few weeks to arrange to get local offers on websites.”

From 1 September, a new system for assessing the needs of children and young people with SEN and disabilities and putting in place the provision for meeting them was introduced. As well as publishing “local offers”, councils should offer mediation, advice and support services for families, and the option of using personal budgets to purchase care services.

Writing exclusively in CYP Now last month, children’s minister Edward Timpson said he was confident local authorities would be ready to deliver the reforms on time.

But Lenehan said change will not happen overnight everywhere. “There’s a good degree of basic awareness among local authorities but they are at different stages of actually implementing [the reforms].

“This was never going to be a big bang. Could I tell you everything is going to work perfectly? No. The likelihood is people will need a lot of support in getting it right,” she added.

Another key element of the reforms is the replacement of statements of SEN with education, health and care plans (EHC), which will co-ordinate support for all children and young people aged up to 25.

Lenehan says the measures governing the use of EHCs are complex and have caused uncertainty among local authorities, particularly around how it dovetails with duties to deliver social care support for disabled children through the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act (CSDPA) 1970.

The Department for Education has written to all directors of children's services to clarify that support identified and provided through the CSDPA must also be separately identified in an EHC plan, and is working with the CDC to provide further support materials for practitioners on carrying out EHC assessments.

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