Learning disability charity Mencap has welcomed the Education Select Committee’s report on the Government’s proposed reforms of special educational needs (SEN) provision, but warned that the opportunity to transform the lives of children and young people with a learning disability must not be missed.
The Education Select Committee’s report welcomed the overall direction of the Government’s proposed legislation to reform SEN provision, but has made a series of recommendations, including:
• Ensuring current protections afforded by SEN statements, which describe the additional support a child or young person is entitled to, are carried through when the statements are replaced with Educational Health and Care Plans (EHCPs)
• Ensuring there is a minimum standard for local authorities to adhere to when implementing reforms and setting out their ‘local offer’. This is the information that they must provide about the support and services that are available for children with SEN and their families. The Committee has also advised that there should be a national framework for this local offer, to ensure consistency and accountability
• Extending EHCPs to cover those in apprenticeships and those not in education, employment or training (NEETS).
The Committee also warned that the draft legislation lacks significant detail, without which it is impossible to assess the likely impact of the proposals.
Education Committee chair, Graham Stuart MP, said: “We believe that the draft legislation relies too heavily in its current form on the duty of joint commissioning between health and local authorities to ensure co-operation throughout the system.
“It will be essential that the forthcoming regulations commit health providers to specific timetables when conducting SEN assessments and that responsibilities for health and local authorities in providing certain therapy services are substantially clarified.”
Mencap believes that the recommendations, if carried through into the Children and Families Bill, will improve education for many children and young people with a learning disability.
The charity has also called for supported employment services, which it believes are best able to meet the needs of people with a learning disability moving into employment, to be included within the remit on an EHCP as well.
Mark Goldring, chief executive of Mencap, said: “We particularly welcome the Committee’s recommendation that health authorities should be obliged to play a full part in the development of services for children and young people with special educational needs.
“This could be a real step forward because without equal duties for health, education and social care to work together to provide these services, existing problems in the system will persist.
“We urge the government to listen to these recommendations and to implement them in full, or a real opportunity to transform the lives of children and young people with special educational needs will be missed.”