What the law says about young people with SEN

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Douglas Silas looks at what the law says about young people with SEN.

As many young people with SEN over 16/19 years old are due to transfer into Post-16/Post-19 education in September and Local Authorities (LAs) should have recently amended Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) to name a placement for them from September, in this issue, I am going to provide an overview of what the law says about young people with SEN.

What is the general law about young people with SEN?

The SEND Code of Practice 2015 (CoP) states that a ‘young person’ is said to be a person who is over compulsory school age but who is under 25 (compulsory school age finishes on the last Friday in June in the academic year in which they become 16). Maintained schools, pupil referral units (PRUs) and academies/free schools have a duty to ensure pupils from Year 8 until Year 13 are provided with independent careers guidance. Schools and colleges use a wide range of imaginative approaches, such as taster opportunities, work experience, mentoring, exploring entrepreneurial options, role models and inspiring speakers.

Discussions about longer-term goals should start early and ideally well before Year 9 (age 13-14) at school and should focus on the child or young person’s strengths and capabilities and the outcomes they want to achieve. This is called: ‘preparing for adulthood’ and, whilst some young people choose to stay on at school, others choose to move to a college or training provider.

What are the duties in relation to higher education?

Everyone working with children and young people with SEN across education (including early years, schools, colleges and 16-19 academies), health and social care, should support children and young people with SEN to prepare for adult life, and help them go on to achieve the best outcomes in employment, independent living, health and community participation. These principles apply to all young people and includes both the transition into post-16 education and transition from post-16 education into adult life.

LAs must place children and young people (and their families) at the centre of their planning and work with them to develop co-ordinated approaches to securing better outcomes, using information from EHCPs to ensure that there are pathways into employment, independent living, participation in society and good health. LAs also have a strategic role concerning the participation of young people in education and training.

They should work with schools, colleges and other post-16 providers, as well as other agencies, to support young people to participate in education or training and to identify those in need of targeted support to help them make positive and well-informed choices.

What does ‘preparing for adulthood’ mean?

According all to the CoP, ‘preparing for adulthood’ means preparing for;

• Higher education and/or employment – including exploring different employment options, such as support for becoming self-employed and help from supported employment agencies.

• Independent living – this means young people having choice, control and freedom over their lives and the support they have, their accommodation and living arrangements, including supported living.

• Participating in society – including having friends and supportive relationships, and participating in, and contributing to, the local community.

• Being as healthy as possible in adult life.

It points out that being supported towards greater independence and employability can be life-transforming for those with SEN and this support needs to centre around the young person’s own aspirations, interests and needs. All professionals working with them should share high aspirations and help them to achieve their ambitions.

What should happen when the young person moves into higher education?

LAs must make young people aware of the support available to them in higher education and how to claim it, including the Disabled Students Allowance (DSA). DSAs are available to help students in higher education with the extra costs they may incur on their course because of a disability. Colleges or training providers must not charge young people tuition fees for higher education places, as the funding will be provided by their Local Authority (LA) and the Education Funding Agency (EFA).

LAs should plan a smooth transition to higher education for a young person with an EHCP. Once the young person’s place has been confirmed at a higher education institution, the LA must pass a copy of their EHCP to that institution at the earliest opportunity. The LA should also plan how social care support will be maintained for a young person with an EHCP, where the young person continues to require it, and whether this will continue to be provided by the home local authority or by the authority in the area that they are moving to. This should include consideration of how the student will be supported if they have a dual location, for example, if they live close to the higher education institution during term time and at home during vacations.

What about young people between 19 and 25 years old?

LAs are not responsible for securing or funding education and training opportunities for young people aged 19 to 25 who do not have EHCPs. LAs must set out in their Local Offer the support and provision that 19 to 25 year-olds with SEN can access, regardless of whether they have an EHCP. 19 to 25 year olds with SEN but without EHCPs can choose to remain in full time education. Colleges are funded by the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) for all students aged 19 and over who do not have an EHCP (including those who declare a learning difficulty or disability). Colleges are able to charge fees for these students, but must use their best endeavours to secure the necessary special educational provision that they need.

Young people with EHCPs should have free access to further education in the same way as 16-18-year-olds. Apprentices aged 19-25 with EHC plans are fully funded on the same terms and funding rates as 16-18-year-old apprentices.

Douglas Silas
Author: Douglas Silas

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