Minister unclear on social worker role with disabled children

Children and Families minister Sarah Teather (left) has admitted she does not know where social workers fit into the government's vision for children with special educational needs (SEN) and disabilities.

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Children and Families minister Sarah Teather has admitted she does not know where social workers fit into the government’s vision for children with special educational needs (SEN) and disabilities.

Speaking to Community Care the minister said the green paper published this week on the topic was meant to be a consultation followed by pilots “because we’re really serious about getting the details of this right”.

“For instance, one of the things we want to test in the pilots is the role of the voluntary sector within the assessment process. The voluntary sector might sit on the assessment panel, it may coordinate the assessments – we don’t know yet what will work best on the ground.”

When pressed, Teather was unable to say where social workers would fit into the process, repeating that the green paper was only an introduction to the consultation process.

“We just need to learn how we can get people to work together,” she said.

She did, however, clarify details about the national banded funding framework proposed in the green paper, which appeared to run contrary to the government’s push to put councils in charge of their own funding.

The framework would be for high-cost provision for children with SEN or disabilities, in addition to what is normally available in schools. It would set out categories of need according to levels of funding. According to Teather, this does not restrict local authorities’ use of budgets.

“It wouldn’t be prescriptive in terms of budgets, it would be prescriptive in terms of what would go in each funding band,” she said. “We realise every local authority is different and the cost of provision varies hugely. The framework groups the different levels of need together according to cost, but it is up to the local authority to determine what that cost is.”

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