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Children’s Minister Edward Timpson (centre) on a visit to Hereward College in Coventry.Children’s Minister Edward Timpson (centre) on a visit to Hereward College in Coventry.The Children’s Minister Edward Timpson writes exclusively for SEN Magazine as he launches the new SEN Code of Practice

Yesterday (Monday 28/7/14) was a landmark moment for our reforms to the special educational needs system. The Code of Practice which has cleared Parliament is the culmination of four years of hard work. For me, as Children’s Minister, I’ve used my two years at the helm to strive to improve and tighten the legislation in order to strengthen and underpin the rights of children and parents, so that every child, whatever their start in life, gets the support needed to be the best they can be. And that means giving them an outstanding education.

So we re-introduced into the Children and Families Bill clauses an unequivocal right for families to request special educational needs assessments. We fought for a specific duty on health providers to provide the health care set out in new education, health and care (EHC) plans; even if that means commissioning it specially for that child or young adult. We tested and retested the new EHC plans and the single assessment process through our 31 pathfinder councils. No longer will families have to fit around the system; from 1 September, when these reforms take effect, the system will have to shape itself around the family.

From joint commissioning of health and social care services, to the faster, co-ordinated single assessment process and an EHC Plan which sets out in one place all the assistance to which a child is entitled, focusing on outcomes from birth to adulthood, this is a child and family focused system. Of course it won’t be perfect straight away – 152 councils will not all get it right immediately, there will be bumps and disagreements along the way – but I’m confident that these are changes which will genuinely reform the SEN system for the better.

Listening to parents

No longer will parents face a wall of silence from councils when trying out to find out what support is available locally for a child with SEN. From September, every council must publish a local offer – clear information explaining the support they give to children with SEN or disability in their area. It has to include information from schools about the teaching and services they offer, and out of area support for the most complex or rare needs where they cannot be met locally. This information – clear, public and to be regularly updated in consultation with parents – will help not just the quarter of a million children and young people with statements or learning disability assessments (LDAs), but the millions who have lower level SEN which attract additional SEN support within mainstream schools.

We’ve ended the categories of “school action” and “school action plus” that were too often driven by the need to label rather than the need to provide the right support at the right time; and we’ve adjusted the categories of special educational needs to prevent poor behaviour being wrongly categorised as SEN to stop lower level needs being used by schools to justify poor attainment to parents.

Children with existing statements and LDAs will be transferred to the new EHC plans over time so as not to overwhelm the new system – within two years for LDAs and no later than April 2018 for statements. No young person will miss out simply because the system is changing; I’ve made it clear that simply switching over to the new system should never be an excuse for children losing the support they currently have.

Importantly, we’ve provided extra support to local authorities of £115.2 million and indicative funding of a further £31.7 million which will be available in 2015/16 to help them deliver these reforms successfully. We’ve funded a new £30 million cadre of independent supporters to help families who most need help to navigate the SEN system. Available over two years, I hope they will prove their worth and become a valued and visible part of the new system. We want to see an end to the confrontational battles of the past between parents and LAs, and to the stressful and expensive appeals which resulted.

Over time, personal budgets will become the norm for parents who wish to have them – putting more power and control directly into the hands of families.

Working together

I recently met with councils to get their take on how they and partners are preparing for the reforms. They told me there is something in this new legislation which is revitalising professional practice and introducing real cultural change – forcing them to work in genuine partnership with other services and with families. Councils simply cannot deliver the reforms if they do not work with families. This is backed by the evaluation of the pathfinders. Parents who now have EHC plans up and running in pathfinder areas have described their experiences as hugely positive – designed around their family needs and focusing on their child’s strengths, not their limits.

This is exactly what we wanted our changes to achieve – and I’m delighted that families are already starting to feel the benefits. It’s for local government to run this new system from September, but ministers will continue to oversee it, surveying parents, monitoring councils, working with Ofsted on a tough accountability framework.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the hard-working professionals – and all the families and children – who’ve worked with us to make the new Code the best it can possibly be. Thanks to their expertise and experience, we’re delivering a reform which should transform the lives of our most vulnerable children, and make life a little easier for their families as well.

Further information

The new SEN Code of Practice (now ratified by Parliament) can be downloaded at:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/send-code-of-practice-0-to-25

To read the Shadow Children's Minister Steve McCabe's response to the new SEN Code of Practice, click here

Comments   

#13 Peter S 2015-02-17 13:45
The article was written by the Children's Minister Edward Timpson. The ref is: SEN Magazine issue 72 (September/Octo ber 2014).
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#12 maria 2015-02-17 13:35
I'm writing about the new code as part of my dissertation and would like to ref this article, who wrote it? can you email details
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#11 Brian Gale 2014-08-08 21:23
Some LAs have a long way to go on the local offer. One will not even tell the National Deaf Children's Society how many Teachers of the Deaf it employs. A number of LAs are reporting pressure on their SEN budgets. While schools are inspected to enable parent to hold them to account, Ofsted is not inspecting how well LAs discharge their duties to children with SEN
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#10 Katy Carr 2014-08-06 23:33
This really is not the big step forward that it claims to be. The main problem with the current law is that it is almost routinely ignored and broken by local authorities, and there is NOTHING in the Code of Practice or Children and Families Act that addresses that. This is NOT holistic provision as you can't appeal or enforce care provision, and although in theory you can enforce health provision it can be vetoed with no right of appeal,

Does no-one at the DfE recognise the problems that are going to be caused because parents will no longer have the right to make decisions on behalf of post 16 year olds? Or the fact that you can't appeal against outcomes in Education Health & Care Plans which will give LAs the excuse to discontinue them when woefully unambitious outcomes are specified? Yes, there are some good things, but they could have achieved that by minor amendments to the current Act rather than disrupting the entire system. It's a badly lost opportunity.
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#9 Fiona 2014-08-05 09:52
Just a thought and I am no expert within the law, would the DDA help to cover costs for the 16 - 18 year olds people are posting about. Also if appropriate, then DLA can be award and that could help towards those horrendous transport costs Emily was discussing. I only know about these as a dyslexic student myself. I was awarded support because I was eligible via the DDA.
As previously stated, I am no expert, but I do like to think I have empathy and want to help.
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#8 Jan Stoney 2014-08-05 09:15
I agree about ITT. I have not yet read the link to any recent amendments to the Code but it would make a massive difference if the New Code has made it compulsory that the SENCo is part of the Senior Leadership Team of schools and providers. How else can children and young people with SEND have a voice in the provision available for them. Additionally the achievements of all children need to be valued. High achievement for all but some children will never get A* to C at GCSE but will achieve related to their cognitive levels. Isn't it about time all achievement is counted and valued in the school's awarded points?
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#7 Jacqui Thomasson 2014-08-01 07:57
As someone who has been part of this whole process,we have a child who has complex health needs who is now a young adult, and played a vital part in piloting personal budgets. I can confirm that this is a major overhaul of the whole system and such a positive move for families like us. Please everyone understand that there will be obstacles to overcome and often things won't feel like it's moving fast enough, but be assured that things are being shaped for the good of all the families like us. There is a lot of work being done in the background and to the person who commented on the post 25, yes that is all being worked on to as day centre facilities are not adequate for our vulnerable people. I feel positive that to get away from the archaic way that LA's have been working around is all for the better. As parents we should not have to fight constant battles, please feel positive that we are moving in the right direction.
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#6 Emily dye 2014-07-31 15:33
Yet again no where does it mention the loophole young people , for example born in 1996 1997 with a statement but due to being 17 and 18 now lost there statement in mainstream college supposed to manage with no more support than. A child without autism epilepsy and the likes . Yet again e 16-18 year olds have been turned over , the same as they have been for the newly introduced home to school transport policy changes where by although statement end because there over 16 they have to pay for transport but have no funds with which to do so but the pm same council website states those children of statutory school age will not have to pay for transport if in receipt of s.e.n. Despite taking to my local mp com cry council and school no resolution and a £600 bill per child for me
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#5 Emma Friedmann 2014-07-31 01:27
It is essential that professionals know about disabilities caused by teratogens. Sodium Valproate causes complex physical and neurodevelopmen tal birth defects. Other epilepsy and mental health medications also cause SEN. Kids and adults with FACS are not catered for in many situations as the professionals are not informed.Are you FACSaware?
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#4 Arabella Carter-John 2014-07-30 22:41
This all sounds like a brilliant step in the right direction but how about those who choose to educate at home due the the local schools not being suitable for their child. We get no support or help, no personal budget....how is this right ???
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