Independent assessment panels in local authorities should become “assessment hubs” for children with special education needs (SEN) services, according to a report by the Policy Exchange think-tank.
The hubs would streamline SEN assessments in social care and other agencies to allow more effective decision-making and commissioning. They would ensure social workers used the Common Assessment Framework, reduce the number of contact points and help parents navigate services.
The report is published ahead of the government’s expected green paper next month on SEN and children with disabilites.
The Policy Exchange urged the government to develop national assessment criteria for statutory SEN assessments, to be applied locally by independent panels. Although it recommended that the criteria should be devised by an independent national body, cost concerns would be considered.
“As there is only a limited amount of money to spend, the government will need to design assessment criteria with the efficient expenditure of these limited funds in mind,” the report said. “It is far fairer for the national government to do this (as opposed to individual local authorities) because this means decisions will be more consistent throughout the country.”
There was also a need for greater transparency in SEN funding, while private firms and charities ought to be allowed to run services.
One-fifth of children in schools in England are identified as having SEN. Less than 20% of these achieve five good GCSEs, under half the national average, and children with SEN are eight times more likely to be excluded than their peers.
The Policy Exchange said reform in this area is needed because as much as £5.2bn a year is spent directly on education and services for children with SEN and they are more likely, later in life, to need services.
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