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SEN shake-up receives positive feedback

SEN shake-up receives positive feedback

Parents of children and young people with special educational needs (SEN) are largely positive about changes being introduced by the government to give them more choice over the services they use, a report has found.

Under the Children and Families Act 2014, from 1 September, children and young people with SEN, and their families, will be offered personal budgets to carry out their education, health and care (EHC) plans, which will replace statements of SEN.

There are four different ways that parents will be able to access personal budgets, including direct payments, which allow them to buy in and manage services for their children.

An evaluation of the SEN Pathfinder Programme, conducted by OPM, found that in many cases having a choice was not deemed necessary because families were already happy with their services or were happy to accept the advice of their child’s school.

The report said parents wanted to be kept informed with progress in terms of trying to gain new services or support.

"Even if services were not being delivered, parents were more content when they knew that actions were under way; that someone was accountable and that there was a defined timescale in place," it added.

The report said it was common for parents to derive reassurance from having a plan in place and seeing their child or young person thrive.

"In some cases, parents also gained confidence in their own ability to support their child and felt that the process had helped them to have a more accurate understanding and clearer expectations around their child’s progress," the report said.

"In some cases, having choice was not deemed necessary because families were already happy with their services or were happy to accept the advice of their child’s school."

However, the report did say that despite the changes, parents remain anxious about the impact of local fundung cuts and ongoing austerity on services.

“It’s great news that families who’ve tested our reforms ahead of September are now saying they have more control over how and where they access support for their children," children's minister Edward Timpson said.

“For far too long, too many families have had to fight for the support they need. The new system will put children and young people first.

“It’s vital that children and young people with SEN can have their say on important decisions affecting their future."

The report concludes that while parents enjoyed their freedom to commission services, they must be provided with ample information about the availability of local services.

It states: “Direct payments were only useful in circumstances when the family had sufficient availability of care locally and knowledge of care options.

“For example, one family living in a rural area was unable to recruit a carer and would have welcomed more support and guidance around this.”

However, the report acknowledges that the introduction of a “local offer” with all details about the support available to children and young people with SEN and disabilities, which all authorities will be required to publish from September, should clarify the availability of services.

Story courtesy of CYP

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