Post 16: What’s in the #SENDReview Green paper for 16-25-year-old disabled young people?

About SNJ’s SEND review coverage:

SNJ is bringing you lots of information and analysis about the SEND Green Paper. We are also interested to hear the responses of other organisations that represent specific groups within SEND and how they think it will affect the children and young people they support.

16-25-year-olds can have EHCPs under the Children and Families Act 2014, unless they have managed to get to university/higher education, something that is an egregious anomaly, something we've written about here.

But despite further education students being covered by EHCPs, parents often find it a battle to secure the right, or any, post-16 support for their young people. Most of the proposals for Post-16 are in Chapter 3 (from page 51):

  • We will support young people in their transition to further education
  • We will prepare young people with SEND for adulthood
  • There are also a number of references to "sustained post-16 transitions" and post-16 in relation to alternative provision

The most relevant consultation question is not related to education for post-16, but to work:

  • Question 12: What more can be done by employers, providers and government to ensure that those young people with SEND can access, participate in and be supported to achieve an apprenticeship, including though access routes like Traineeships?
  • There is also the catch-all question 22: Is there anything else you would like to say about the proposals in the green paper? (Chapter 6)

Ruth Perry, Senior Policy Manager at Natspec, the membership association for specialist further education colleges for disabled students offer’s her organisation’s view of the implications of the contents of the Green Paper.

Right support, right time, right place—unless you’re a disabled young person 16–25-year-old? by Ruth Perry, Natspec

Reading the SEND Green Paper on publication day was like waking up on Christmas morning to find Santa had clearly never received your Christmas list---or else you’d been very bad indeed. Admittedly, the list of suggested improvements that Natspec and our partner further education (FE) body, the Association of Colleges, had presented to the SEND Review Team was pretty long. But there again, there’s quite a lot that needs fixing for 16–25-year-olds with SEND.

We were always expecting the Green Paper to focus predominantly on schools and children. There is undoubtedly something going badly wrong with a system in which so many children with SEND are being squeezed out of mainstream schools. But we didn’t anticipate that there would be so little in there for young people and colleges. 

Lots of words, no action for 16-25-year-olds

The term ‘young people’ is certainly used throughout, but further education and preparation for adulthood are allotted just two of the Green Paper’s 100+ pages. Issues relating to adult social care are treated as tangential and best resolved by another department at some point in the future.

Of the three things specifically on offer for young people, two (investment in supported internships and an Access to Work passport to help education leavers get the reasonable adjustments they need at work), while welcome, are old news. The third (transition standards and common transfer files for school leavers moving to college) will be helpful depending, of course, on what goes into those standards and how they are upheld. 

The SEND Review gave us all the chance to reflect on how effective the extension of the SEND system up to the age of 25 has been. The Green Paper could have been the place to propose creative solutions to some of the obvious problems at this end of the system. Yet the government seems to be squandering the opportunity. There is neither recognition of symptoms, diagnosis or suggested cure.

Natspec's post-16 unfulfilled wishlist

So what was on our ‘Christmas’ list? Basically, a set of specific recommendations that we thought would make a positive difference for 16–25-year-olds with SEND, their families, and the colleges that support them.

We wanted to make the experience of leaving education (whether school or college) less of a cliff-edge experience. We recommended that:

  • young people with SEND and their families have a dedicated transition worker to support them through their learning journey
  • multi-agency planning for life after school/college should begin for young people with an EHC Plan at least three months before they leave, with discussions including housing, employment and continuing adult education 
  • funding/commissioning systems should allow a gradual tapering off of education and increased support from adult social care over their final year.

We know that some families push hard for their young people to hold on to their EHCP and stay in education even when they are ready to take their next step, because there is nothing for them to move on to. We wanted the review to think more broadly than school and college to life beyond it, and so we called for:

  • effective employment support post-college
  • more investment in suitable housing options for young people with learning difficulties and / or disabilities 
  • an increase in the adult education budget to allow for more courses for adults with learning difficulties and / or disabilities.

Properly resourced Further Education

We also wanted further education settings to be properly resourced and facilitated, to offer rich learning experiences to their students with SEND more fully meeting their needs. To do this, we wanted to see:

  • increased funding for students on SEND support in general FE colleges so that it matches what’s available to children in schools
  • investment at national level into FE centres of specialist expertise to support training for local colleges, for example in sensory impairment or positive behaviour support
  • changes to commissioning approaches that would allow young people to access dual placements in specialist and general FE settings
  • exploration of a regional or national funding mechanism for the small numbers of young people with low incidence or very complex SEN who need highly specialised provision. We hoped that might make securing a place at a specialist college less of a battle and more of a recognised, appropriate route for those who really want and need it.

We found none of these longed-for presents under the Christmas tree on Tuesday morning (nor the various more technical changes to funding and commissioning that we had recommended). We know Santa definitely got the list because we hand-delivered it at regular intervals over the two-year review period and read it aloud to Santa and his elves more than once.

We will be making the case even more forcefully over the next 13 weeks. If you’re interested in combining forces to help us amplify these messages on how to improve things for 16–25-year-olds, please do get in touch.

Ruth Perry, Senior Policy Manager, Natspec

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Ruth Perry, Senior Policy Manager, Natspec

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