9 March 2011
Government proposals to radically reform services
for young people with special educational needs have been welcomed by
children’s charities but have alarmed teaching unions.
A consultation paper, published today, proposes
a single education, health and care plan for all eligible children by 2014, which
would be reviewed until they were 25 years old. These would replace the present
assessments of education needs.
Support and aspiration: a new approach to special educational needs anddisability proposes that the voluntary and community sector
might co-ordinate these assessments across services.
Local authorities would each set out a ‘local
offer’ of services available to support eligible children and their families.
By 2014 parents could have a personalised budget
for their child, with trained support staff to ‘help them navigate the range of
help available across heath, education and social care’, the paper says.
Parents could choose either a conventional or
special school and the ‘bias towards inclusion’ – encouraging children with SEN
into mainstream schools – would end.
Children’s minister Sarah Teather said: ‘We
have heard time and time again that parents are frustrated with endless delays in
getting the help their child needs, and by being caught in the middle when
local services don’t work together. The new single assessment process and plan
will tackle this issue.’
This stance drew support from the children’s
charity Barnardo’s, whose chief executive Anne Marie Carrie said: ‘The holistic
education, health and care plan could help banish the time, stress and money
currently spent deciding whether children should be labelled “SEN”.’ But she questioned
whether the financial resources would be available to make the new system
The National Association for Special
Educational Needs also welcomed what it described as ‘a clearer, less
But Christine Blower, general secretary of the
National Union of Teachers, said spending cuts would reduce support for
vulnerable children, and ‘to suggest that the voluntary sector can step in to
fill the gap is inappropriate’.
Mary Bousted, general secretary of the
Association of Teachers and Lecturers, warned against upheaval while ‘savage
cuts are already being made to many of the specialist services teachers rely on
to help them support children with special educational needs’.
Baroness Shireen Ritchie, chair of the Local
Government Association children and young people board, complained that the
government has cut funding for early years work by 25%.
‘If council support for SEN is to continue at
its current level, which is something that all local authorities want to see, it
must be sufficiently funded,’ she said.