Families to be given personal budgets for special educational needs support

Published on Tuesday, 15 May 2012 14:54
Posted by Scott Buckler

Parents are to get a new legal right to buy-in specialist SEN and disabled care for their children, under plans set out today by Children’s Minister Sarah Teather

For the first time ever, 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 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.

Currently it often is not clear to parents, and to local services, who is responsible for delivering on the statement. 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said it would end the delays children face by undergoing multiple check ups over many months, sweeping away the current outdated, slow and complex system.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 published today.

The main elements are:

  •     replacing SEN statements and separate Learning Difficulty Assessments (for older children) with a single, simpler birth to 25 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 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.
  •     local authorities and health services will be required to link up services for disabled children and young people – so they are jointly planned and commissioned.
  •     requiring local authorities 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. Local authorities would have to name the parent’s preferred school so long it was suitable for the child.


The consultation had a huge response – with around 2400 formal responses giving broad support for the reforms. The changes are already being piloted in 20 local pathfinders. The interim evaluation reports are due in summer and late autumn this year with a final report in 2013.

The Children and Families Bill announced in last week’s Queen’s Speech will now put legislation in place for the reforms.

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.

    It is a huge step forward to require health, education and care services work together. The reforms will give parents better information and  a comprehensive package of support that meets their needs.

Christine Lenehan, Director of the Council for Disabled Children, the Government’s strategic partner on its SEN reforms, said:

    We are delighted that the government continues to support disabled children and those with special educational needs. Tackling the battleground for families by ensuring joined up local services and clear local information is to be warmly welcomed.

The Green Paper response also confirms a £3m Supported Internships trial will be launched in 15 further education colleges this autumn for 16 to 25 year olds with the most complex learning difficulties or disabilities – and we will make it possible for all colleges to offer Supported Internships from September 2013.

The programme will provide a structured study programme, based at an employer, that is tailored to the individual needs of the young person and will equip them with the skills they need for the workplace. This will include on-the-job training, backed by expert ‘job coaches’ to support interns and employers, and the chance to study for relevant qualifications – where appropriate.

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