Children’s and families minister Sarah Teather has admitted that it will be difficult to achieve the joint working needed to make the government’s Green Paper proposals on children with disabilities a reality.
Teather gave the pessimistic forecast this morning while answering questions on the Disabilities and Special Education Needs (SEN) Green Paper at the House of Commons’ education select committee hearing.
She said: “If I’m honest…I think it’s going to be difficult. Ministers before me have sat here and said they want the agencies to work together and we haven’t seen it happen.”
Health, in particular, had often been “slow in responding to requests”, she said. However, she believed that replacing the current statementing process with a single assessment and a single health, social care and education support plan would overcome such problems because more people would be involved at the start of an assessment.
“My hope is that the structural changes proposed in the green paper will force this conversation, but we need to test that out,” she told MPs. “We’re trying to change the manner of the dialogue, but just changing legislation doesn’t do that – it takes a lot of work on the ground.”
Single assessments for all children with disabilities and SEN are going to be piloted in 25 local authorities from September this year.
The minster also responded to concerns about which agency would take the lead in the new joined-up system, saying she believed local authorities would be best suited due to their “long-standing expertise”.
Looked-after children with SEN or disabilities would have an easier time under the proposals, Teather added, because their education, health and care plan would move all necessary information, not just notes about education, on to any authority to which they were moved.
“At the moment, you can take the statement from one borough to another, but if you have health or social care needs, those are lost when you move,” she said. “We’re proposing to have one plan covering all these areas that moves with the child.”
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