SNJ In Conversation with Dame Christine Lenehan, Director of the Council for Disabled Children

One of the (numerous) problems many parents find when their child is having an education, health and care needs assessment, is the "care" bit. A social care assessment is often not offered, and if parents request one, the response from the social care department is "not known to social services" case closed.

Then there's always the intimated threat that you wouldn't "want" your child to be known to them, would you? But a social care assessment as part of an EHCP isn't the same as a family being involved with social services or the child having a social worker. It's more to do with qualifying for respite/ short breaks that can be included in the plan. And if your child doesn't have an assessment, how will you know 1. what's available and 2. if they can get them?

Someone we wanted to talk to about this, and more, was former disabled children's social worker, Dame Christine Lenehan. Dame Christine is the long-serving director of the Council for Disabled Children, the organisation that holds Government delivery contracts for disabled children's support including the Information, Advice and Support Service as well as operating a number of other different networks. The CDC describes itself as, "the umbrella body for the disabled children's sector bringing together professionals, practitioners and policy-makers." In other words, it's the lynchpin of the SEND sector and is, in turn, part of the National Children's Bureau. Special Needs Jungle is also a member of the CDC.

Christine has been involved with supporting disabled children for 40 years, including authoring a number of Government reviews. So, if there is someone who knows everything there is to know about the history of SEND, it is Christine. Renata and I caught up with her via Zoom, for a wide-ranging discussion covering children's social care, the SEND reforms, what's gone wrong and what the CDC is doing to try to fix things.

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SNJ talks to Dame Christine Lenehan, Director of the Council for Disabled Children

You can listen to the conversation in audio only from a platform of your choice below, or watch in glorious technicolor via YouTube.

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Thanks to Luca Tirraoro for the theme tune.

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Tania Tirraoro


  1. momof2

    In my Local authority it is standard for the Send team to assess you without talking to you to see if you need an assessment in the first place for an EHCP. My two have had one for years and never had a social care assessment as we have been deemed as not needing one. They say its to ensure that the budget is spent properly, I say its because we have only had 4 part time workers to provide these assessments and they were one after the other on their own for the whole borough. Now they currently do not have one to complete the assessment. One of many issues.
    To be honest I am not even sure what it is used for as the Local Offer is very vague about it as well.

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