The Coalition Government has made a commitment to improve services for vulnerable children and support families. The draft legislation is in the form of the Children and Families Bill which is due in September 2014. Amongst a range of reforms to support adopted children, family justice system and childcare is the Government's commitment to transform the system for children and young people with special educational needs (SEN), including those who are disabled, so that services can consistently support the best outcomes for those children.
The Special Education Needs (SEN) reforms will extend the SEN system from birth to 25yrs, giving children, young people and their parents greater control and choice in decisions and ensuring needs are properly met. The key elements include:
- Replacing statements and learning difficulty assessments with a birth-to-25 Education, Health and Care Plan
- Improving cooperation between all the services that support children and their families particularly requiring local authorities and health authorities to work together
- Requiring local authorities to involve children, young people and parents in reviewing and developing provision for those with SEN & disabilities and to publish a 'local offer' of support
Local authorities must publish information about both local provision and provision outside the area that is expected to be used by children and young people with SEN and disability, including national specialist provision. The information must be:
- Clear, comprehensive and accessible
- Responsive to local needs by directly involving children, young people, parents and service providers in its development and review
- Inclusive for all providers including education providers; early years providers, schools, post-16 providers
Some local authorities have come forward as 'pathfinder champions' to deliver the reforms early and share their good practice with other local authorities. There are 20 Pathfinders in England who have been working on the reforms since autumn 2011. Initial evidence has shown that the experience from these Pathfinders is making a real difference to the lives of children, young people and families in their areas. These Pathfinders are now providing a mix of information, advice and support to other local authorities in their areas to help deliver their own Local Offer.
In Buckinghamshire we are working with our local Pathfinder to develop the Bucks Local Offer. We are building on the resources we already have available; Buckinghamshire Family Information Service (BFIS) website, Buckinghamshire County Council (BCC) website, SchoolsWeb, Buckinghamshire Grid for Learning, Starting Point directory and working closely with key partners to achieve a high quality Local Offer resource. One of the critical areas of work is with FACT Bucks to ensure that children, young person and parent/carer involvement is at the heart of every step of the development of the Local Offer.
These are still early days for the Local Offer in Buckinghamshire but we are confident that once published it will be an important resource for families and professionals in understanding the range of services and provision in the area. We will keep you updated with developments as they occur and are always happy to hear from people who would like to be involved in this important area of work.
Children's Partnership Team
Learning Skills & Prevention, Children & Young People's Services
Buckinghamshire County Council