The end is nigh – deadlines and concerns around the Code of Practice

The Special Educational Consortium (SEC) is a group of organisations who promote the rights of disabled children and children with special educational needs.  This week they have  announced that they "would be unable to support the draft Code of Practice if it was laid before Parliament for approval in its current form."

senreformmontageAs most of our readers will know, the draft consultation for the SEN Code of Practice finishes on Monday (9th December).  SNJ will be putting our response in before the deadline and it's not too late for you to do the same.  As much as it may feel like a time consuming and soul destroying activity, if you have any spare time before Monday, please do try to put a response in, even if you only focus on the areas that are of the utmost importance to you.

To help you find the sections you may be interested in, here is a quick summary:

Section 1 - Introduction

Section 2 - Overview (looking at the principles underpinning the Code of Practice)

Section 3 - A family centred system (involving children, young people and parents, person centred planning, impartial advice & support and parent carer forums)

Section 4 - Working Together (how education, health and social care are expected to work together)

Section 5 - The Local Offer (what information the Local Authority has to publish, how and where it has to be published and how it must be reviewed)

Section 6 - Early years, schools, colleges and other education/training providers (covering support, funding, support etc for children and young people with SEN)

Section 7 - Assessments and Education, Health & Care Plans.  Remember these EHC Plans are only for those with SEN and not for children with a disability but no SEN.

Section 8 - Children and Young People in specific circumstances (this covers looked after children, home educated children, care leavers, etc)

Section 9 - Resolving Disputes (mediation, tribunals - although all working together it is necessary to have three different tribunals to challenge each aspect of the Plan).


To be honest, as I started writing this post, I referred to it as "chapter 1" not "section 1" but perhaps that was just my subconscious letting me know that it feels like a work of fiction or perhaps I wish it was a work of fiction.

I have sat and read, re-read and read again this document and the more I read, the more I fear for the future rights and support of our children.  How this document can be offered as an improvement for families is beyond me.  I really am concerned for those children who are currently on school action or action plus; those children with disability but no SEN; those children relying on the Local Offer (how can you challenge an expect ion?); those children who aspire to a University place and with the SEN reforms and the changes in SEN funding, I worry that those children who want to attend a mainstream setting may be in for a struggle.

The original aspiration of the Green Paper was to involve children, young people and their families in the decisions being made about their lives.  This is person centred planning and when I saw this being mentioned initially, I was beyond excited.  I know what can be achieved when this is used properly and when everyone involved buys in.  However, person centred planning gets just one very small mention in the current draft and even that little mention may disappear in the final version so the whole ethos of the SEN reforms gets lost in red tape.

I think without much more prescriptive guidance - especially around person centred planning (which is going to be essential to make these reforms work), schools and LA's will struggle to engage parents and families, and the "them/us culture" that the reforms were meant to address will still exist in many areas.

If you want to respond but don't have time, you can sign a petition that Ipsea have online (it takes two minutes).  Ipsea also have some letters to send to MPs and on line surveys to share your concerns.

University and SEN

Tania recently wrote to Mr T expressing her concerns about the legislation needed for young people with SEN attending university.  He responded earlier this week and we wanted to share this response with you.

Dear Tania,

I am sorry for the delay in getting back to you. On your points about higher education, I want to assure you that it is not our intention to deny support to young people who have this aim. Securing a place at university is a positive outcome for any young person. The reforms in this Bill are intended to raise aspirations for young people with SEN to ensure they all reach their full potential. Where progressing to higher education is an agreed goal, a young person’s EHC Plan should put in place the right level of provision and support to enable them to do so.

Universities already successfully support young people with disabilities – including long-term health conditions, mental health conditions and specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia – using the Disabled Students Allowance (DSA). DSAs are not means-tested, are awarded in addition to the standard package of support and do not have to be repaid. Provisional figures for academic year 2011/12 show that 51,900 full time students benefitted from a DSA, with support totalling £117.2m. The number of students in receipt of DSA has increased by over 10,000 from 09/10 to 11/12 and amount of funding by just under £30 million. 

Through our reforms, we are seeking to ensure that young people with EHC Plans experience a smooth transition into university, and a well-managed handover between health and care services. We have updated draft regulations and the draft Code of Practice to be clear that we:

·         require the local authority to share a copy of the EHC plan with the relevant Higher Education Institution and with the DSA assessor, with a young person’s consent (Regulation 32 of the Assessment & Plan Regulations)

·         expect local authorities to plan the transition into higher education before ceasing to maintain the young person’s EHC plan, including how health and social care support will be maintained, where it continues to be required (section 7.19 of the draft SEN Code of Practice), and

·         expect local authorities to make young people aware of support available to them in higher education through their local offer, including the Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) and how to make an early claim so that support is in place when they start their course (sections 5.2 and 7.19 of the draft SEN Code of Practice).

Furthermore, even though an EHC plan will cease when a young person takes up a place in higher education, health and social care support they remain entitled to will continue. Provisions in the Care Bill mean that 18 year olds who have eligible needs for care and support will in future receive a statutory Care and Support Plan. This should form the Care part of their EHC Plan where one is in place but would continue in its own right as a statutory Plan once a young person entered Higher Education and their EHC Plan was no longer maintained.

D, ET & T at the DfE back in Marco 2013

Thank you, Mr Timpson, for responding, but you have missed the central point - it isn't the money, it's the protection. A high functioning young person with Asperger's may not qualify for social care, but they can go still into melt-down and drop out because the promised emotional support from the Learning Support Department do not materialise.

I read this and thought there's far too many expectations and not enough requirements in there. And therein lies one of the problems of the new proposed reforms.  They contain lots of "it would be great if  ....." but nowhere near enough of "this absolutely, without any question, must happen".  As we have said before, you cannot challenge an expectation! And as far as universities go, it isn't the money, it's the protection.

If every Local Authority, school, education setting, social care department, etc did all they could, without a battle, to meet the needs of children with SEN and/or disability, life would be so much easier for all of us.  However, not all of them play nicely and with all the Government cuts, hence Local Authorities having to cut services, together with the additional changes to SEN funding, we will be having to fight more than ever to get our children the support, provision and education they need.

How is this supposed to make life easier for families?

Debs Aspland
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