DfE to spend further £4.8m supporting SEN reforms

By Neil Puffett

| 09 January 2017

An additional £4.8m has been set aside to support efforts to implement the government reforms to the special educational needs system.

The government wants to increase awareness of autism among education staff. Picture: Lucie Carlier

A total of seven contracts have been put out to tender by the Department for Education for voluntary and community sector organisations, social enterprises and others bidding on a not-for-profit basis to provide a range of services in 2017/18.

This includes a £2.3m contract to provide delivery support to local areas to help them "embed" reforms to services. There is also a £400,000 contract to support culture change around the special educational needs and disability (SEND) reforms in voluntary and community sector organisations.

Meanwhile £113,000 has been set aside to appoint a "lead SEND adviser" to provide professional policy advice to the Department for Education on implementation of the reforms and oversee delivery support provided to local authorities.

There is also a £750,000 contract to increase awareness and understanding of autism among education staff in early years settings, schools and colleges in order to improve inclusion and support children and young people with autism in transitions.

A further £650,000 has been set aside for a contract to improve support provided for children and young people with additional needs in speech, language and communications.

A £300,000 contract to support access to employment for young people with special educational needs and disabilities. And a further £300,000 contract to improve the support provided for children and young people with physical disabilities.

There have been concerns for some time about local authorities struggling to implement the reforms. In 2015 children's minister Edward Timpson announced that the time councils could take to transfer children with SEN statements to education, health and care (EHC) plans would be extended from 14 to 18 weeks.

It is feared that some authorities will struggle to transfer all children by the April 2018 deadline stipulated in the Children and Families Act 2014.

Last year the government handed local authorities and charities £80m to help them transfer young people to EHC plans before the deadline.

The closing date for bids for the new contracts is 30 January.

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