As a result of the SEN reforms, the landscape around special needs has suddenly got a whole lot more complicated. Local Offers, Independent Supporters, Mediation providers, the SEND Gateway and another grouping, SEND consortium, and its new offering called SENDirect.
SENDirect is a new online service where organisations that provide services for families with children with SEN & disabilities can register their details in a searchable online database. Its start-up has been funded by the Departments for Education & Health. Service providers can list any support, activity or product they have on offer and can be purchased by families holding a personal budget as part of their child's Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP). It's free for providers to register until January 2015 so you might want to share this with your local organisations that provide SEND services.
To explain it more fully, Emma Straker from SENDirect has written a guest post for Special Needs Jungle, detailing what it's all about and how it can help you.
The implementation date for the Children and Families Act is looming – time to stop talking, start doing and, most importantly, be ambitious. One big aspect of the changes that this will make to the system for Special Educational Needs and Disabilities is the transfer of choice and control to families. While this is all very well in theory, turning it into a meaningful reality is likely to prove quite a challenge.
Choice and control - isn’t it all about personal budgets?
Yes and no – firstly there are many ways to give families more choice and control, a personal budget being just one of these. Secondly, being allocated a personal budget is only the start of the choice and control process – what happens next? Where would you go to find out what you can buy with your budget? What if you want to try something new or a little bit different? What if there isn’t anything to meet the outcome that you’re trying to achieve? And, if you don’t want a personal budget, why shouldn’t you be more informed about what’s available?
There are so many questions that crop up when you really start thinking about it – so it’s really important that we provide things that will give families confidence and help them to feel empowered to make decisions. If we don’t, isn’t there a danger that we will just fall back on the traditional model of service delivery that was so criticised in the SEN Green Paper?
What is SENDirect and how will it help?
Time for some self-promotion. SENDirect is a new online service from the SEND Consortium – a group of nine national charities working in partnership – in response to families reporting that they struggle to find support and activities to meet their child’s needs.
Our initial development has been funded by the Department for Education and Department of Health and for the last year we’ve been working closely with families, providers and 10 pilot local authorities to design a website that will support choice and control; that will give people confidence in making decisions and help them to feel empowered.
SENDirect’s "beta-launch" is scheduled for early in September. Between September and March 2015, we’ll be working out any last minute bugs and introducing additional functionality before our official launch.
The website enables families to:
- Search for view, compare and buy services;
- Get relevant and practical information from trusted sources to give them confidence in using a personal budget and making decisions about services, activities and support for their child;
- Review services their children have used and make recommendations to other families;
- Influence the development of new services by identifying gaps in the market.
We’re aiming to have thousands of services listed online by March 2015. In the early stages, it’s likely that they’ll be concentrated in and around our 10 pilot areas. The more people that can help us to spread the word to other providers, the more this number will grow and we’ll be able to reach more families.
Calling all providers of services, activities and support!
We want SENDirect to be able to support as many families as possible so we need as many providers as we can to register and list their details – from across the education, social care, health and leisure sectors. If you want to make people more aware of what you do and let them know how good your service is, SENDirect is the place to do it. At present it’s completely free and you can also use the system to track enquiries, manage payments and get feedback from the people who use your service.
You can access our Provider Registration System NOW, via this link:
We’ve also put together a Provider Registration and Listing Guide which you can download from the same page.
So come on, let’s make sure that we get this choice and control malarkey right from the very start – it’ll be so much harder to try to introduce it later on! And it can make a huge difference to people’s lives – and isn’t that what we’re all working towards?
Emma Straker, SENDirect's Partnership Manager.
SNJ: So, what do you think? Will you use SENDirect if you have a personal budget?
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