Stop children and young people losing provision and support when transferring between a Statement of Special Educational Needs and an Education, Health and Care Plan
In July 2014, The Children’s Minister Edward Timpson wrote;
‘No young person will miss out simply because the system is changing; I’ve made it clear that simply switching over to the new system should never be an excuse for children losing the support they currently have.’
Local Authorities have struggled to keep up with the changes, budgets have been slashed, training is poor and Legal Deadlines for the process are frequently breached. Far from enforcing the Statutory Transitional guidance; the government downgraded this to 'Advice' from March 2015. This does little to provide trust in these policies.
Many Local Authorities, who are pressured to make cuts because of reduced funding; have developed systems to remove vital support from the most vulnerable children and young people for whom they have a duty of care.
In September 2014 The Children and Families ACT came into force. The presentation of this is 'Parent and Child Centred Reforms'; however there is a legal loop-hole which is being used by some Local Authorities to remove provision from the supporting document (which was called a ‘Statement of Special Educational Needs’) when this is transferred over to what is now called an ‘Education and Health Care Plan’ (EHCP). They are systematically removing provision from section F (Provision in the EHCP) and often without appropriate professional recommendations to say that this vital support is no longer required.
Many families report collusion between schools and colleges and the Local Authority which pressurises them to refuse to state if they are 'unable to meet the needs' (as the original Statement) of a young person with learning difficulties until the EHCP has removed the provision, thus giving them the ability to be named as ‘suitable’. This saves the County money by avoiding potential places at specialist independent colleges, or simply by reducing the therapy or additional support provided- but at what risk?
They do this because they can, because the legislation in the Children and Families Act 2014 does not stipulate that provision cannot be removed from part 3 of the statement when transferring to section F of the EHCP without appropriate professional recommendations.
Government statistics published in September 2014 states that there were 232,190 children in England who have a Statement of SEN, which means that nearly a quarter of a million children are at risk of having their provision removed.
Refusal to make assessments of children who have special educational needs is common - of those refused only 14% appeal to the SEND Tribunal; however 86% who appeal win their case. This has become a barrier to support and a step in the process. When assessments are carried out there is a serious lack of trust in the independence of the professionals used. They are often unavailable for children but quick to jump to the defence of Local Authorities in Tribunal Appeals.
We are asking for a judicial review to revise and overhaul the new legislation which was hurried through, leaving Local Authorities ill-prepared, incorrectly trained and instead of helping those children with Special Educational Needs they are looking for ways to remove support and provision due to the pressure of restricted budgets. We want there to be accountability for Local Authorities who do not adhere to the Law, who create delays in order to circumvent the system and who leave families at emotional breaking point.
Was this the intention of the reforms, and if not can you assure us that changes will be made to legislation to protect the interests of the most vulnerable children in our society?
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