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Special educational needs and disabilities review should fully join up system for seriously ill children

News and comment

Together for Short Lives has called on ministers to use a review of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in England announced today (6 September) to bring about a fully joined-up system for seriously ill children. Despite positive progress since the last set of reforms, not all disabled children are able to access integrated assessments, plans and services across education, health and social care.

The government states that, five years since the law was changed to introduce a new SEND system across England, the review aims to:

  • improve the services available to families who need support
  • equip staff in schools and colleges to respond effectively to their needs
  • end the postcode lottery they often face.

The review will examine a range of areas including:

  • how the system can provide the high quality support that enables children with SEND to thrive and prepare for adulthood, including getting a job
  • how parents can be helped to make decisions about what kind of support will be best for their child
  • how health, care and education services in different local areas can become consistent, joined-up and of high quality
  • why the number of education, health and care (EHC) plans is increasing – and in particular what impact specific health conditions are having
  • how public money can be spent in an efficient, effective and sustainable way to bring about high quality outcomes for those children who need additional support the most.

Andy Fletcher, Chief Executive of Together for Short Lives said:

“I look forward to engaging with the review of the SEND system in England. The Children and Families Act brought in a number of positive changes, including joined-up assessments, plans and budgets across education, health and social care for children with SEN from birth to 25. However, it is clear that many challenges remain, particularly the inconsistency in approach in different areas and a lack of integrated support for children and families.”

“Seriously ill children and their families have to navigate a maze of services and professionals. A joined-up assessment and plan across education, health and care for all disabled children could cut down the time their families have to spend filling in forms and travelling to appointments. It would enable them to be parents again. I call on ministers to make sure that this review brings about an integrated system for all children and families who could benefit from one, including those with life-limiting conditions.”

You can read more about the government’s review here.

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  1. It is indeed a complicated maze of professionals, jargon and systems parents face during a time of great fear and distress. I led the model of Early Support in my LA from its inception in 2003 until I retired at Easter this year. Having worked as a teacher in special education for over 40 years I saw this to be a model which brings support, information and coordination to families at such a vulnerable time of their lives. We were able to extend it beyond the pre-school age group from 2010. I also set up a model of home based education for the most fragile, palliative children and young people whose health would potentially be comprised by attending a local special school. Sadly, through LA cutbacks and ideological change, Early Support is no longer widely available; yet families are still in need of the support encompassed by that model. I spoke at a couple of conferences you held about the changes to SEN and greatly admire all you do.

    9 September, 2019
    Sally Harrison