The SEN Minister responds to your feedback of the special needs reforms so far

I received a letter from Ed Timpson, the Minister for Education with responsibility for SEND reform yesterday.

It follows the trip Renata and I made to The Department for Education in January to conduct a video interview with him. If you missed them, we split them into chunks, which lots of you said was really helpful. You can find them:

If you recall, we asked you to send in your feedback of your experiences of the new system so far and you most certainly did!

You can click the image which will open the pdf of the letter in your browser. However, for accessibility, because it's a scan made into a pdf, I've extracted the text, under the image.

ed timpson letter
Click the image to open the letter document

 

Dear Tania & Renata
It was a pleasure to meet with you again recently to talk about how the special educational needs (SEN) and disability reforms are being implemented. I was particularly grateful for the efforts you took to provide me with feedback from a range of people about their early experiences of the new system. All sources of feedback are really helpful as they help us to really understand what is going well together with pinpointing the areas of development we need to focus on.

The experiences your fellow parents provided emphasised how important it is that we do get it right for children and young people with SEN and disability and for their families. In particular, the messages came across strongly that we still have a way to go in:

  • Expanding the knowledge and understanding of the detail of the reform across local authority staff and other professionals;
  • Making available information to all that is accessible and accurate;
  • Ensuring the benefits of co-production are fully realised;
  • Making sure that our systems are fully geared towards preparing young people for adulthood.

I have asked my officials to consider how they can work with our strategic partners* to address these points. However, I have met parents who have had a very positive experience of the reforms. They told me that they have felt involved and listened to. They like the positive new ways of presenting information about their child's needs and provision. One parent said that having the opportunity to meet
with key people together rather than having many different meetings was helpful, and that they welcomed the ‘immense’ support from the parent partnership. These positive experiences are clearly not yet shared by all, but. I am determined to make sure that even more families benefit directly from the changes we've brought in.

Clearly, local authorities have a central role in making sure that happens. The task of transferring statements and Learning Disability Assessments is a very demanding one. That's why we are continuing to provide local authorities and their partners with support, challenge and resources to help them do that task. More widely, we are continuing to provide support that is helping them develop the
systems and the necessary skills across the workforce.

et
We are also following up on individual local authority issues where these are drawn to our attention by various organisations including by parents themselves. The SEND advisers have been given your evidence so they can follow up with the councils where further intervention is appropriate. If they wish to do so, families can write to my Department to register their concems. However, in my experience, it is normally best to resolve these issues locally. If parents want to make a complaint, in the first instance they should usually go to their local head of SEN.

They can also ask to use the local disagreement resolution service and seek advice from the parent carer forum or through Contact a Family. The Contact a Family Helpline is 0808 808 3555, and they are open during office hours. If you need to raise a complaint more formally, you can still complain to the local authority, seek mediation on issues that can be appealed to the SEN and Disability Tribunal and if necessary appeal to the Tribunal. Information about how to do all of this will be published on the local offer.

I want every family to know that if they need help with an Education Health and Care plan assessment (whether for a new plan, or because they are transferring from a statement or LDA to a new plan), they can get it. Every local authority must offer an Independent Advice and Support Senrices (IASS) for families, and details of your local IASS are here: http://www.iassnetwork.org.uk/find-your-iass/

In addition to IASS, the Govemment is also funding Independent Supporters. They can help young people and parent carers in a number of ways, such as working with professionals to help you collect the information you need for the EHC plan. It is early days, but based on the first 100 evaluation responses received directly from parents and young people, 80% would recommend the service to others, and
nearly 95% said their work with the Independent Supporter was either extremely useful or very useful. So, if you think Independent Support might help you, you can find details of your local provider from:
http://www.councilfordisabledchildren.org.uk/news/january-june-2015/getting-in-touch-with-your-local-independent-supporter
We have said many times that these are the biggest reforms in SEN and disability in 30 years. It is inevitable that there will be teething problems. However, based on the numerous contacts I have with people right across the SEN system, from professional to parents, charities to children I am confident that positive change is happening all over the country, and the support is there for your experience to be a good one too.
Kindest regards
Edward Timpson MP
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families

*Strategic partners include the Council for Disabled Children and Contact a Family

So there you have it - a route or rather, routes, to complain. The one you choose will, presumably, depend on the circumstances of the issue. Quote:

If they wish to do so, families can write to my Department to register their concems. However, in my experience, it is normally best to resolve these issues locally. If parents want to make a complaint, in the first instance they should usually go to their local head of SEN.

They can also ask to use the local disagreement resolution service and seek advice from the parent carer forum or through Contact a Family. The Contact a Family Helpline is 0808 808 3555, and they are open during office hours. If you need to raise a complaint more formally, you can still complain to the local authority, seek mediation on issues that can be appealed to the SEN and Disability Tribunal and if necessary appeal to the Tribunal. Information about how to do all of this will be published on the local offer.

What do you think? Are you satisfied that this offers you sufficient avenues for complaint? Considering the judicial ruling last week, it certainly appears that shoddy Local Offers won't be tolerated so LAs had all better have this information on their websites PDQ.

Would you like to be able to contact your area's SEN Advisor directly if your initial contact to the Head of SEN isn't satisfactory?

Personally I'd also like to hear from SEND staff of all types and how they are tackling the challenges of huge change.

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Tania Tirraoro

Founder, CEO at Special Needs Jungle
Founder of Special Needs Jungle. Parent of two young adults with autism. Tania is a member of the Whole School SEND Expert Reference Group for SEND Leadership, the Ofsted SEND Inspections Stakeholders Group, and sits on the Advisory Board of the Royal Holloway, University of London Centre of Gene and Cell Therapy.
She is also an experienced broadcast and print journalist & author. Tania also runs a PR, web & social media consultancy, SocialOro Media. She is a Rare Disease & chronic pain patient advocate with Ehlers Danlos syndrome.
Tania Tirraoro
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Carol Dixon

I think this is as good a response as could have been expected – thank you for raising our issues. He says we can contact DfE directly but hasn’t given details of how. Raising your concern individually is all well and good but it doesn’t necessarily change things for the less knowledgeable people behind you. That said, if all parents had contacts for our SEN advisers they would probably be inundated.

You make good points. However if anyone feels that they can’t get heard, they can always send it to us and we can forward it

Good point!

Yes yes yes I’d like to be able to contact the area’s SEN Advisor directly – and to know who is holding them to account too…