SEND Reforms start today

Monday 1 September saw the first day for the implementation of the SEND Reforms, under the new Children & Families Act 2014. Below is a letter to all parent carers and parent carer forums (like us, the Southwark Parent Carer Council) from the National Network of Parent Carer Forums (NNPCF) that gives our view of what to expect from the new reforms for our families. And for more info:

Children and Families Act 2014: A new beginning – 1st September 2014

For over 3 years, since the publication of the green paper “Support and aspiration: A new approach to special educational needs and disability” people and organisations across England have been discussing the need to improve the outcomes for Children and Young People with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.

Today, after a long journey that green paper which is now the Children and Families Act 2014 comes in to force.
The discussions have been challenging at times and so has the hard work that has involved Local Authorities and others to design new systems and solutions to meet the needs and expectations of the Act. From today as the new systems comes into force we will all find out how effective those plans are.

If we look back at the green paper, the opening three paragraphs of the foreward say:
“This Green Paper is about all the children and young people in this country who are disabled, or identified as having a special educational need. It is about their aspirations and their hopes. Their desire to become, like every child and young person, independent and successful in their chosen future, and, to the greatest extent possible, the author of their own life story.

It is about their families – who have consistently called for better support for their children and themselves. Families of the most disabled children who are providing 24-hour care from birth, or the families of children struggling at school and who don’t know where to turn for help.

It is also about their teachers, their college lecturers, and the many skilled staff from the health and social care professions who do their best, day in and day out, to provide the right support and encourage the highest aspirations.”
Since the design of the legislation started, the debates of what and how things should be done have been robust. Not everything that has been discussed has made the cut and there will be some who will continue to argue that the new system is not all it should be.

But we have to recognise that what is now law needs to be implemented, it must be allowed to settle in and then we must review it fully to find the gaps. However; that must be for a later date and everyone must now work together to ensure that Local Authority’s meet their duties and Government properly monitors progress and enforces improvement where necessary.

NNPCF are proud to acknowledge the efforts put in by parent carers and their local Parent Carer Forums during the design and implementation of the Act. With stretched personal resources and with a wide spread of representation Parent Carer Forums have been at the heart of the discussions. From those who have been involved with pathfinder areas and those who have tirelessly engaged in their local areas our hats come off to them in recognition of the challenges overcome and the solutions found.

Parent Carer Forums work hard to be representative and provide a voice for those who are less able to do so, for many different reasons. NNPCF acknowledge that there is still work to be done in ensuring that parent carers from all communities and backgrounds have an equal opportunity to be heard and we are committed to extending the reach of local parent carer forums further.

As information about the reforms becomes more widespread across Local Authorities, as engagement and partnership opportunities arise as a result of the reforms and with the introduction of the Independent Supporter Programme, NNPCF hope and fully anticipate that more Parents will find their voice and want to share their knowledge and experiences in a balanced and knowledgeable way, ensuring that all children who are encompassed by the Act get the support and services they need.

The Act provides the opportunities for Children, Young People and their Families to be fully involved in the decision making process, ensuring from the outset their needs are properly met. In his speech at the national Parent Carer Participation Conference for forums last year Edward Timpson said:

“I’ve been struck by how many parents I’ve met who say they’ve had to fight to get their child’s needs recognised, fight to get different services to work together, fight to be involved in decision- making, fight to reduce delays, fight to find out what help is available. You don’t need me to tell you that this simply isn’t good enough.”

He continued…..”That’s why I share your determination to change this, so that the system is genuinely on your side. So that your children can have what we all want for our children – support to help them develop and thrive to be the very best they can possibly be.”

Looking back at the opening three paragraphs of the Green Paper we have to now determine if they and the words from Edward Timpson have now been translated into reality. Children, Young People and their Families must now look forward to a new beginning which from today must deliver better outcomes and provide clear aspirations for children with Special Educational Needs or Disabilities.

The old methods of services working in isolation, not sharing information or not developing meaningful partnerships have to be put aside. Parent carers will expect openness in all aspects of working. Clear documentation, assessments and plans will help everyone understand what must be delivered for each individual child.

Information will be key to ensuring that those who need it have access to it and understand it. The Local offer must be properly developed to ensure that services are visible and open to challenge and improvement.
Where support is needed or disputes arise there must now be clear and visible methods to access the services implemented for those purposes.

Commissioning agencies must work together and create effective partnerships to ensure that the right provision in each Local Authority is delivered, not what they think is needed, but what the services users need.
All of this will take time to bed in and in the short term as those on the front line get used to the new arrangements there may be an element of confusion and misunderstanding.

NNPCF nationally and Parent Carer Forums locally fully expect to be involved in helping resolve issues as they arise by helping share good practice and clarifying challenges over time.

The previous 30 year old system has now been put to rest, there has been a challenging journey over the last three years to achieve a new system that will have so many expectations. Now we must look forward to supporting the new reforms and embrace change.

This IS a new beginning… The final paragraph from the foreward of the Green paper says:

“Every child who is disabled or identified as having a special educational need deserves our support, so that they, like every other child, can achieve their aspirations. We can only achieve that by working together.”

NNPCF Steering Group 1st September 2014

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