By Steve Rose, Sense
In September local authorities in England began introducing a new system for children with special educational needs and disabilities.
The new system is a result of the Children and Families Act, which has introduced the following changes:
- Statements of special educational needs (SEN) have been replaced with Education, Health and Care Plans
- The system now applys from birth to 25 years old, instead of birth to 18
- Local authorities have been placed under a duty to publish a ‘local offer’ setting out the services expected to be available to children and young people with SEN
- There is now a stronger emphasis on joint service delivery and planning between agencies
In principle these changes will benefit children with SEN and change the system for the better. There is concern, however, that local authorities and practitioners aren’t ready for the changes.
The SEN guidance was only released in the summer and many people who work directly with children with SEN simply haven’t had time to get to grips with it or receive training to help them implement the changes.
For children with a sensory impairment, it is vital that professionals understand the impact of the changes to the system and do the following:
- Identify children and young people with a sensory impairment and ensure that this is passed onto all those who work with them. Deafblind children need specialist support and it is vital that this is recognised early on.
- Follow the deafblind guidance – it still applies and outlines your duties to support people who are deafblind.
- Involve families within their planning and service development process. Deafblindness is low incidence so don’t be afraid to seek help from practitioners who have the relevant experience and knowledge.
- Children and young people who are deafblind have specific support needs. In particular they need 1:1 intervenor and communicator guide support. These services may be more economical to commission jointly and some aspects, such as 1:1 support may be appropriate for personal budgets and direct payments with the right level of funding.
- Transition to adulthood is a challenge for all young people, particularly those who are deafblind. Plan in advance, start early, and be creative in ensuring young people have a voice in what they want. Some young people may need to actually experience things in order to understand what their options are.
Steve Rose is the head of children’s services at deafblind charity Sense