£30m for special educational needs 'champions'

Published on Tuesday, 07 January 2014 10:40
Written by Daniel Mason

More than 1,800 champions will be on hand from this September to help parents navigate the new special educational needs process following a £30m funding boost, announced today by children and families minister Edward Timpson.

The £30m will be used to recruit and train a pool of 'independent supporters' – champions drawn from independent voluntary, community and private organisations to help the families of children and young people with special educational needs through the new process following comprehensive reforms to support.

Edward Timpson, minister for children and families, said: "Our new £30m fund will allow families to access help and support from more than 1,800 fully-trained champions across the country. I know from speaking to many parents how much they value any support in helping them access the services their children need.

"Independent supporters will be able to spend one-to-one time with families giving them the independent help and advice they need to progress through the new SEN assessment and education, health and care planning process. This will ensure that every child and young person with SEN can take full advantage of our reforms.

"Independent supporters will be available every step of the way for families as they navigate the new system, which will provide much greater integration of vital services and one system for children and young people with SEN from birth to 25.

"Where there is disagreement, independent supporters will also make sure councils understand what families want, and help families to challenge decision making so children with SEN receive the support they really need."

The Council for Disabled Children will ensure that a range of organisations provide this totally independent help, overseeing the recruitment and training of the independent supporters – around 12 per area – in time for the implementation of our comprehensive SEN reforms.

Christine Lenehan, Council for Disabled Children director, said: "Council for Disabled Children is pleased to be leading on this piece of work alongside its remit as the department's strategic reform partner. Independent support will become a valuable resource to help and support parents of children with SEN and young people, parent partnership services and local authorities, as we all move towards implementing the reforms and local offer. We look forward to working with a wide range of private, voluntary a community sector partners as we develop proposals further."

The Children and Families Bill, which is currently progressing through parliament, will make significant improvements to the support available for children with SEN, including:

  • replacing SEN statements and learning disability assessments with a new birth-to-25 education, health and care plan - setting out in 1 place all the support families will receive
  • requiring better co-operation between councils and health services to make sure services for children and young people with SEN and disabilities are jointly planned and commissioned
  • giving parents and young people with education, health and care plans the offer of a personal budget - putting families firmly in charge
  • requiring councils to publish a 'local offer' showing the support available to all disabled children and young people and their families in the area - not just those with educational needs
  • introducing mediation for disputes and trialling giving children and young people the right to appeal if they are unhappy with their support
  • introducing a new legal right for children and young people with an education, health and care plan to express a preference for state academies, free schools and further education colleges - currently limited to maintained mainstream and special schools

Source: Department for Education

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