We recently ran a quick survey to find out what people actually knew about the SEN reforms and also, how involved they had been in the changes being proposed.
One of the results that really jumped out at us was the lack of awareness of what the Local Offer was. So, as promised, we are going to be going through the results and trying to give answers where we can.
Every Local Authority must publish, in one place, information about provision they expect to be available in their area for children and young people from 0-25 who have SEN.
The Local Offer is included in the Children and Families Bill, currently going through parliament. This will become law in September 2014. You can find full details in section 4 of the new draft SEN Code of Practice
What is the purpose of the Local Offer?
- To provide clear, easy to understand, accurate information on services and how they can be accessed so parent/carers and young people can see clearly what is available.
- To show what is available at various stages of the SEN journey.
- To make the local provision more responsive to local needs by directly involving children and young people with SEN, their parents and carers and service providers in its development and review.
What should the Local Offer include?
- Education provision
- Health provision
- Social Care provision
- Arrangements to identify and assess children and young people with SEN
- Eligibility criteria for services and how decisions are made
- What support is available to help children and young people move between school phases
- Services available to support young people preparing for adulthood
- Sources of support, advice and information
- Arrangements for disagreement resolution, complaints, mediation and appeals to the SEN Tribunal
- Also arrangements on how the Local Offer will be reviewed and feedback on the Local Offer from families
Is it similar to a Yellow Pages for SEN?
No. The Local Offer will not be a resource directory., these are only useful if you know what you are looking for and often they are out of date the day they are printed - services stop, charities close, helplines change their number, etc.
The Local Offer will be a website that will be easy to search (perhaps showing relevant services offered as various stops on a journey). The website should also allow you to print off information - more than 20% of parents of a child with SEN do not have internet access or only have a limited access on their mobile, so it is essential that the Local Offer website will allow others to print off the relevant information for parents.
Does this sound like a good idea?
In theory, this sounds great but in practice?
We'd love to know what you think would be useful for the Local Offer. What information would you have liked to be readily available or did you find out about a much needed service but only when it was too late to access it?
- Accountability: the number one change you would like - March 7, 2016
- Life Skills – are children with VI missing out? - March 2, 2016
- Tests:Do you and your child find them testing? - February 3, 2016
So what happens when the Local Authority fails to comply? Nothing, the same as when they break the Law with impunity regarding provision for SEN, the same as when they ignore the Equality Act, the same as when they ignore the Autism Act. No Law is worth the paper it`s written on when nothing happens if it is broken. Sorry for my scepticism but my daughter has had no education for 5 yrs, is discriminated against by the LA, and we are laughed at when we mention the Equality Act.
William, sorry to hear about your experience, sadly it is not the first time I’ve heard similar. Your scepticism is well-earned so please don’t apologise. What would you suggest is needed if there is no fear or consequence of non-compliance?
Needs a legal minimum standard of offer so families can know what to expect – otherwise it’s just another website and not really a step forward for making provision transparent, accessible or evenly spread.
I totally agree. A minimum standard is essential. When this was raised though, the argument was that parents could challenge their LA if other LA’s were providing more. Sorry, but in my view, that’s the equivalent of my daughter saying “but all my friends have one”, I don’t have to provide her with anything just because her friends have it and LAs won’t need to provide us with anything just because other LAs do.
And that also implies that users would be a) looking at the local offer for other LAs and b) feeling empowered to challenge…..
It seems that the government has realised how important information is for families with disabled children – good! If done well, the local offer could be a really good thing. And if you integrate some sort of “rate and review feature”, you might even improve accountability. I can rate my GP, my dentist and my child’s school online, so why not short breaks services and Educational Psychology?
I agree with Alisande that national minimum standards would give the whole thing legs – I know Edward Timpson has said that could lead to a “race to the bottom”, but that’s what’s happening anyway, as local authorities are cutting everything except the stuff they are required to provide by law.
Tania, where did you find that figure of 20% of parent carers not having internet access, I would love to use that!
I have a friend who was advised she was entitled to help from portage for her pre school child who has autism. So she applied, and was told there was no funding available, her name was on a list. By the time funding was available and she was at the top of the list, her child was too old!
I can see the same thing happening with the local offer, an all singing all dancing website that looks good and ticks all the boxes, but when you come to access the services, a long waiting list or some other excuse.
Call me cynical if you like, but I will believe it when I see it!
Christina, I think we have earned our badge of cynicism through years of experience. I think the Legislation needs to be more prescriptive in many areas, only then will we be able to start building a foundation of trust. Without that foundation, there will be little change.
Deb, I know exactly where you are coming from. The Local offer will be all that is available for those without an EHC Plan and I think more effective legislation needs to be in place to ensure families in your position get the support and opportunities open to others.
Read what IPSEA say on the single plan and its enforceability or not, if you are one of the unlucky ones who was sold on EHC and belong to a pathfinder then read it now ! Lots of training and awareness raising on the legal implications. Going to legal advisors, seeking judicial review or disallowing local services to perform reviews which rewrite statements are all good way to be a thorn in the side of your LA if they simply renege on their duties. All fear complaints to the Ombudsman or requests for freedom of information .. Google SOS:SEN, IPSEA, Luke Clements, or Douglas Silas just for starters. They fight dirty, so you have to fight clean. Trust is built upon respect, if they don’t respect us or our role in knowing our child, if they abuse their position we can’t trust. Go to Carers UK or Contact a Family for further info on stats of carers, population, finance – resources angle.
Respectfully, NHS professional and mother to CWD
What happens if there are no services for a particular disability? For example my aspergers daughter is assumed to be too high functioning for the children’s disability team and, thus, not eligible for a SW which then restricts what services/support she can get. I’m feeling quite cynical about the local offer; I suspect children like my daughter will still face barriers to services due to restricted eligibility criteria. Aside from that, I’d like to see what is on offer by psychological/mental health services – will this be covered by the health side?