Personal budgets for special educational needs support
Parents are to get a new legal right to buy in specialist special educational needs (SEN) and disabled care for their children, under plans set out by Children’s Minister Sarah Teather.
For the first time, parents will be given the power to control personal budgets for their children with severe, profound or multiple health and learning – meaning they can choose the expert support that is right for their child, instead of local authorities (LAs) being the sole provider.
The biggest reform of SEN for 30 years will also force education, health and social care services to plan services together by law – so when their children are assessed, parents will be assured they will get full provision to address their children’s needs.
Often it is not clear to parents, and to local services, who is responsible for delivering on the statement of special needs. Services such as speech and language therapy may appear in the statement but are funded and commissioned by local health services.
Sarah Teather said that would stop the 'agonising' battle many parents fight to get the support for their families, as they are forced to go from 'pillar to post' between different authorities and agencies.
She said it would end the delays children face by undergoing multiple check-ups over many months, sweeping away the current outdated, slow and complex system.
The reforms are set out in the Government’s formal response to the public consultation on its green paper, Support and Aspiration.
Children’s Minister Sarah Teather said: "The current system is outdated and not fit for purpose. Thousands of families have had to battle for months, even years, with different agencies to get the specialist care their children need. It is unacceptable they are forced to go from pillar to post, facing agonising delays and bureaucracy to get support, therapy and equipment.
"These reforms will put parents in charge. We trust parents to do the right thing for their own child because they know what is best. The right to a personal budget will give them real choice and control of care, instead of councils and health services dictating how they get support."
The main elements are:
- Replacing SEN statements and separate learning difficulty assessments (for older children) with a single, simpler birth to 25 years assessment process and education, health and care plan from 2014. Parents with the plans would have the right to a personal budget for their support.
- Providing statutory protections comparable to those currently associated with a statement of SEN to up to 25-years-old in further education – instead of there being a 'cliff edge' when it is cut off at 16, to help young people into employment and independent living.
- LAs and health services will be required to link up services for disabled children and young people – so they are jointly planned and commissioned.
- Requiring LAs to publish a local offer showing the support available to disabled children and young people and those with SEN, and their families.
- Introducing mediation for disputes and trialling giving children the right to appeal if they are unhappy with their support.
- Children would have a new legal right to seek a place at state academies and Free Schools – currently it is limited to maintained mainstream and special schools. LAs would have to name the parent’s preferred school so long it was suitable for the child.
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