Below we have collated some of the most common questions we get asked about the SEN and disability reforms.

The Children and Families Act became law on 1st September 2014. The Act includes clauses on special education needs and disability (SEND) which aim to reform the SEN system. The clauses include:

  • A new duty for joint commissioning which will require local authorities and health bodies to work in partnership when arranging provision for children and young people with SEN.
  • A requirement on local authorities to publish a “ local offer” of services they expect to be available for children and young people with SEND.
  • A duty on local authorities to draw up Education, Health and Care plans.
  • A requirement on all local authorities to prepare a personal budget for children or young people with an EHC Plan if asked to do so by the child’s parent or the young person

The Act includes all disabled children and young people and those with Special Educational Needs aged birth-25 years.

An EHC Plan will replace current Statements of SEN and Learning Difficulty Assessments. The plan will be a legal document describing a child or young person’s needs, the provision to meet those needs and the suitable educational placement. Government has stated that the Plan must be person centred, focusing on the needs and aspirations of the child. EHC Plans will continue into further education and training, and for some young people up to the age of 25.

The Department for Education has stated that a child or young person who currently has a Statement of SEN will have an EHC Plan. Guidance says that EHC Plans should be issued when the local authority considers the special educational needs of the child cannot be reasonably provided for with resources normally available to mainstream early years provision, school and post 16 institutions.

Children and young people with primarily health or care needs will not be issued with a plan, unless these needs impact their education.

Under the Children and Families Act (2014) and the Code of Practice, School Action and School Action Plus will be replaced with SEN Support. SEN Support will be the support available in school for children and young people who have special educational needs but do not have an EHC plan. SEN support will provide additional funding for this cohort of children and young people to enable them to reach their goals.

Lewisham’s Local Offer

The Children and Families Act places duties on the health service in relation to children and young people with SEND. The health service means the responsible commissioning body, which will normally be the local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) but for children and young people with certain health conditions this may be NHS England.

The health service must engage with the Local Authority to create joint commissioning arrangements for the health and social care provision required by children and young people identified as having SEN. These arrangements need to set out what health provision is to be secured and who is responsible for securing it. The arrangements must also establish a mechanism to resolve disputes between the different commissioning parties.

The health service must also cooperate with the Local Authority in the creation of an Education, Health and Care Plan by advising on what kind of health provision is reasonably required by the learning difficulties and disabilities which result in the child or young person having SEN. This could include specialist support and therapies, such as medical treatments and delivery of medications, occupational therapy, and physiotherapy, a range of nursing support, specialist equipment, wheelchairs and continence supplies.

The Education, Health and Care plan will have to approved by the relevant health commissioning body, and if it is approved, the health service must ensure that the support set out in the EHC plan is made available.

The Code of Practice says that local authorities must provide a service that gives families, including young people with SEND, information, advice and support. These services are to help young people with SEND get the services they need. For example, they should provide information and advice to help young people understand their legal rights and how to get access to local services.

Lewisham Local Authority have set out their local offer which can found on http://www.lewishamlocaloffer.org.uk/

The Act states that parents and Young Persons aged 16+ have the right to request an Education, Health and Care Assessment.

Lewisham SENDIASS (Lewisham Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Information Advice and Support Service) are funded by the Local Authority and they provide impartial and factual support in relation to the special educational needs system. They aim to help children, their parents and young people to play an active and informed role in their education and care.

There are different methods to resolve disagreements under the new Act.

  • Disagreement resolution
  • Mediation
  • Tribunal

The local authority must make arrangements for parents and young people to receive information about mediation so that they can request mediation if they wish.  In some cases, parents and young people have a right to appeal to the First-Tier Tribunal (SEN and Disability) about needs assessments and EHC plans.  It is important to note, that parents and young people must show that they have considered mediation before appealing to the Tribunal. Once parents or young people have either considered mediation or declined it, the mediation service will issue a certificate. There are strict timescales to adhere to. Lewisham SENDIASS will support parents and young people through the mediation and the tribunal process.

For support https://www.kids.org.uk/lewisham-sendiass

Statements will continue to have legal force until the new EHC plan has been finalised.