In September 2014 new legislation takes effect in England and Wales that changes the way children and young people with disabilities and special educational needs (SEN) receive support.

The Children and Families Bill was passed in March this year and one of its main areas of focus was looking at how health, education and care are provided for children and young people with SEN and disabilities.

The new laws in the Bill aim to make things easier for families and provide a more joined-up approach when accessing services for these children and young people. But what exactly will change and how will it affect your family?

1. Replacing the Statement of Educational Needs with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP).

Although this sounds a bit scary, it is hoped this will make life simpler for your child in the long term. Children who would currently have a statement of SEN and young people over 16 who would have a learning difficulty assessment, will now have an integrated assessment and a single EHCP. It will provide statutory protections for young people over 16 and up to the age of 19, provided they remain in education or training (including apprenticeships).

In some cases, this can be extended to the age of 25. If a young person leaves education and is unemployed, they can keep their Plan up to the age of 19, however if they go to university or become employed, they won’t be eligible for a Plan.

The ‘trigger’ for the new Plan will be education – a child or young person with health and social care needs will only get a Plan if these needs impact on their education. It still isn’t clear exactly who will be responsible for preparing the EHCPs although the Government is focusing on cooperation between local authorities and providers.

Existing statutory protection provided by statements and learning difficulty assessments will remain. Details are still being finalised on how the transfer to the new system will work, but currently it is thought no ‘new’ statements or assessments will be issued after 1st September 2014. Over three years, existing statements will be converted to Plans, with the same thing happening for assessments over two years.

2. Giving families with an EHCP a say in decisions.

Parents or young people over the age of 16 will have the option of a personal budget to pay for support or services set out in their EHCP. The funding can be allocated in four ways:

  • - Direct payments to the family/young person
  • - A ‘notional budget’ where the family directs their local authority on where funding should be spent
  • - Funding handled by a third party (no information yet on who can do this, but in theory local parent groups   could be included)
  • - A combination of all of the above

Local authorities will consider these requests and will have the right to refuse, for example, if they believe the spending will provide poor value for money or negatively impact other people. Head teachers will also have a say if the money is to be spent within school. Parents will also have the right to request a place for their child at any state-funded school, whether it is special or mainstream, a maintained school, Academy or free school.

3. Joined-up approach from local authorities and services Local authorities will be required to set out a ‘local offer’ of what support they expect to be available for children and young people with SEN.

It must contain information on:

  • - Special educational provision available within the area, including resource provisions and special schools.
  • - Specialist provision outside of your area where this is being used by local children with SEN.
  • - Details of teaching approaches, how the curriculum will be adapted, arrangements for assessment and monitoring, how effectiveness will be measured, extra-curricular activities, etc.
  • - Funding.
  • - Arrangements for identifying SEN.
  • - Opportunities for apprenticeships and training.
  • - Health care provision.
  • - Social care provision.
  • - Transport.
  • - Sources of information for parents including forums and support groups.
  • - How to make a complaint.
  • - Any eligibility criteria for any provision set out in local offer

​The local authorities must consult with families and young people with SEN and disabilities when putting together their offer. It’s likely they’ll do this through parent/carer forums and groups. Although you will have the right to complain if you’re unhappy with anything in the local offer, there is actually no direct legal requirement on the local authority to provide what’s in it.

Useful links

Find out more about the new EHCPs and how they will impact your family:

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