Parents will be given more powers to control the support that children with special educational needs (SEN) receive, the Government has said.
The proposals put forward would see parents given their own "personal budgets" - currently the favoured method of giving assistance to people who receive social care support - as well as a possible reduction in the number of children deemed to have a special educational need. This is set out in the government's formal response to the public consultation on its Green Paper, Support and Aspiration. The move to personal budgets would see parents given the power to choose the expert support for children with severe, profound or multiple health and learning disabilities.
The reforms are billed as the biggest to the SEN system for 30 years, and will force education, health and social care to plan services together by law.
Children's Minister Sarah Teather said: "The current system is outdated and not fit for purpose. Thousands of families have had to battle for months, even years, with different agencies to get the specialist care their children need. It is unacceptable they are forced to go from pillar to post-facing agonising delays and bureaucracy to get support, therapy and equipment. "These reforms will put parents in charge. We trust parents to do the right thing for their own child because they know what is best. The right to a personal budget will give them real choice and control of care, instead of councils and health services dictating how they get support. "It is a huge step forward to require health, education and care services work together. The reforms will give parents better information and a comprehensive package of support that meets their needs."
The Government's proposals have been welcomed by Christine Burke, senior development manager at the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities. "Personal budgets can be extremely beneficial as they put the needs of the child and their family at the centre of their health, social care and educational needs. They provide individuals with greater control over their lives, allow them to get better support and inclusive lifestyles. We agree that for too long too many families have had to "battle" a complex system that doesn't always put the child's needs first."
But Burke also noted that changing the system will be difficult and will require commitment and a concerted effort from all the services involved. "Joint working between education, children's services, health and social care services (and subsequently adult services) does not always work well. These changes will require a new and radical approach if we are to make sure that this situation changes and offer real support to families and young people to be able to use their budget positively. "The systems will have to change their way of working from one of wanting to control what and where children belong, to one that is flexible, puts the child's needs and their family first, and works in partnership with families and children. In this way the support will be in place to better support families to plan and ensure that their child's interests are at the centre of planning. Working in partnership with families and children for some services will be a challenge. This should be identified early on and actions taken to ensure the right supports are in place in finding good local services that can support families and young people to have a good life in the community. "We need to see a support system in place that helps families to understand personal budgets, to support them in planning and managing that budget effectively and to understand what it is possible for their son or daughter to purchase with personal budgets. Personal budgets for adults have been on the agenda for years, yet we continue to see problems in their widespread adoption. We need to see a greater urgency if thousands of children are to have the meaningful lives in the community they deserve."
This story first appeared on the website of sister publication the Journal of Family Health Care, www.jfhc.co.uk