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Webchat with Edward Timpson, children's minister, on the upcoming SEND changes; TUESDAY 15 JULY at 12.15pm

(142 Posts)
RowanMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 14-Jul-14 10:26:08

Hello

As lots of you will know, the Children and Families Act comes into force in September, and with it some changes to the systems around special educational needs.

We know this is a topic many MN posters are deeply involved with. You may remember we've previously had chats about this with Sarah Teather (when she held the relevant government post) and with Edward Timpson himself a while back.

Edward says: 'We've been preparing for the big changes happening in SEND from September. We've been working with local authorities, parents, children, young people and many of our partner organisations in health and education to reform the systems for children with special educational needs and disabilities. I've been looking forward to discussing these changes with you as I know that SEND is a topic of great interest to many Mumsnetters.'

We hope you can join us on the day; as ever, if you can't please post up your questions in advance.

Thanks
MNHQ

sickofsocalledexperts Mon 14-Jul-14 16:42:32

Wow what a coup! I would definitely like to ask him to clarify : what can and can't the personal budgets be used on, as only today a mum I know has been told she can't really use it on much at all as "otherwise it would destabilise the whole SEN system if everyone went around choosing what to spend their money on". That leaves me v confused.

sickofsocalledexperts Mon 14-Jul-14 16:46:01

Also, if I am allowed two questions, will he help open the minds of the folks in the LAs to ABA? Not to impose on anyone, just as a choice of intervention for those parents who believe it will help their child? At the moment it is a big fight to get it, which is not the case if you choose,say, Teacch or SALT or OT.

SarahBrooklands3 Mon 14-Jul-14 17:09:58

Personal budgets sound great but if no money in budgets or money not ring fenced for SEN how do you see this helping families? when ever we ask about accessing a service or school providing a resource we are constantly told you do not meet criteria, there is no funds available to purchase this resource or it is not available in your district. The plans you make need to fit local provision so what is being done to change the criteria locally or allow access to budgets/funds. Also we are facing massive cuts to Short Breaks so how can we expect to have a SC personal budget when less funds available SEN is being cut the most in a lot of LA when the government are offering more choice and control. very confused and worried?

Whylde Mon 14-Jul-14 18:57:37

Young woman trying to get her children back from a Special Guardianship Order after losing them following domestic violence four years ago. She can’t get legal aid but the other side can afford a solicitor. Other side get her McKenzie Friend dismissed. The professionals all appear prejudiced in favour of the special guardians. Their solicitor influences the court, the guardian and the social worker. How can this woman get justice without any legal help?

thecarrotsarerevolting Mon 14-Jul-14 19:11:54

I am weary of schools and LA's doing anything possible to avoid complying with the current system that is in place. How can you be sure that the same won't happen with the new system?

The LGO and Ofsted have both found nothing wrong in illegal acts taken that prevented my disabled child not being receiving the education he was entitled to. I can't see how the new system can really improve things to be honest.

thecarrotsarerevolting Mon 14-Jul-14 19:13:36

Oops sorry for the typo's blush

Sickof and Sarah you are right to be wary of personal budgets. I work with adults and in our borough we have had PBs for adults for about 3 years now. Most of our clients are still waiting to see a single penny and those that have started receiving payments are only entitled to a fraction of the services they were getting under the old system. It's a fiasco and is causing untold amounts of harm. The knock-on is that because nobody has their money, services are fragmenting and closing all over the place. I should say though that some other boroughs are doing substantially better than ours - it's a lottery basically.

PB's sound brilliant on paper but without the money behind them it just equates to more cuts. There's a written apology here from the guy who invented the system sad

JadedAngel Mon 14-Jul-14 20:24:35

Great! Right, I have a few questions...

1) The upcoming SEND changes make no mention of ensuring children who need 1:1 support to access childcare and preschool can get it. Families across the country are struggling to access this, as the recent Parliamentary Inquiry into Childcare for Disabled Children has shown.

How will you ensure this is addressed?

2) When will the statutory SEND Code of Practice requirements for maintained nursery providers to report on the admission of disabled children be expanded to include private, voluntary and independent settings?

3) How will you ensure the Local Offers include the full range of provision across the childcare sector and set out joined-up information for parents including information providers and the additional support and funding available to cover assessments, intensive support and specialised care? Currently the situation is unclear, patchy, and Local Authorities are not forthcoming with information or adequate support.

thank you!

SchoolHolsTOWIE Mon 14-Jul-14 20:38:40

I would like to know, if under the new system, LAs who break the law and flout the new Act and SEN CoP, will be made to account for their actions and suffer financial penalties for their illegal actions.

Instead of the current toothless system of a 6 month "investigation" of maladminstration with the result that, although the LA clearly broke the law in the case of eg my disabled child (as upheld by the LGO), suffered nothing more than having to apologise to me.

The current system of investigating complaints and subsequent redress is as much use as a chocolate teapot. And until LAs are made to suffer proper financial penalties, the new law and SEN CoP will be flouted time and time again.

So I would like to know how the children's minister proposes how to make sure that LAs act within the law and ensure that they properly look after the most vulnerable of our society - disabled children. And, of course, make LAs (genuinely) always act in the best interests of our children.

thecarrotsarerevolting Mon 14-Jul-14 20:45:39

Hear, hear Towie

OneInEight Mon 14-Jul-14 20:48:34

Two questions - but they are related so hopefully will be allowed.

Why is the provision for academically able, high functioning autistic children so poor throughout the country? Neither of my sons have been able to cope in mainstream due to anxiety but there is nowhere either in our local authority nor in the two neighbouring boroughs for them to go at secondary that can meet both behavioural and academic needs.

Why does it take so long to get support for such children. Both of my sons now require specialist provision (which we have been fortunate enough to obtain albeit at considerable distance) but I truly believe that if help had been given when their problems first became apparent that they could have coped in mainstream and not suffered such severe mental problems.

JadedAngel Mon 14-Jul-14 20:59:09

Excellent question TOWIE.

Also One's question has made me think of another similar question.

Why is the provision for physically disabled children who also have learning needs so poor?

Most special schools we have encountered, and this is backed up by similar stories from other parents, cater predominantly for learning difficulties with little regard for physical disability, or it's been patched together poorly.

In our circumstances, the result of this is that there is not a single school in our local authority that can cater for our son's needs. There is one (and only one) in a neighbouring LA, but of course it is full!

inappropriatelyemployed Mon 14-Jul-14 21:11:14

I have been very concerned at the absence of transparency and accountability throughout the reform process as well as the lack of genuine engagement with parents. Any 'engagement' which has taken place appears largely to have been limited to existing Parent Carer Forums (PCFs). Yet, clearly, not all parents are in PCFs, nor do they all want to be. It could be said that engaging PCFs is the easy option and that it simply provides a fig leaf to hide the reality that most parents don't know what is going on at all.

To make matters more opaque, the involvement of the third sector has eroded the usual mechanisms for public accountability. Charities have taken contracts to drive through Government reforms yet some seem very unwilling to question the changes or engage openly. Some also seem unwilling to explain to parents how and why they believe their implementation of the reforms for the Government will actually benefit our children and young people. As there is scant empirical evidence from the pilots to demonstrate any quantifiable improvement (there was, for example, precious little trialling of direct payments beyond what was already available e.g. DPs for transport), and as many LAs are already developing new blanket policy responses to deal with new assessments etc, it is hard to see what real difference parents will see or how the CFA reform process has been anything more than a fight to stand still and retain current rights.

That is the context, to my query, but my question for the Minister is twofold and specific:

(i) what empirical research evidence supports the contention that these reforms will improve outcomes for children and young people?

(ii) is it acceptable for the Government's strategic reform partner, the Council for Disabled Children, to refuse to engage with parents as in this example from the Educational Rights Alliance? The CDC has received hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money for its role: don't parents have a right to demand the utmost transparency and engagement in changes which affect their children?

AAmommy Mon 14-Jul-14 21:35:19

Question on ABA provisions: There is undeniable evidence that Early Intervention (ABA in particular) brings great results and outcome for children on autistic spectrum. Right now the prevalence rate is 1 in 68 and it is growing EVERY year. But LEA are using every mean possible to deny any ABA coverage, including when the costs are similar to specialist provisions and even LSAs. It doesn't matter how successful your ABA program is and that everyone agrees that your child has made a great progress (he wouldn't have otherwise made with just OT, SALT and TEach). So much time and money gets wasted from both parents and LEA side in this fight for provisions, that could have been spent on our kids.

Personal budgets are a great opportunity to give us (parents) opportunity to use the funds on something that actually works and has been SCIENTIFICALLY validated. Could you please support us to include ABA provisions in the personal budgets (please do not tell us to speak to LEA - it does not work and we all know that).

hatchypomagain Mon 14-Jul-14 21:35:36

How can we gain comfort that the local offer won't just be lowest possible offer.
Secondly, if we do get PB should suppliers be 'qualified'
The fight for a statement is currently disgusting and my local authority admitted to writing illegal statements because most parents aren't clever enough to argue or understand. Hmmm they're people fighting for the best for my children - not

hatchypomagain Mon 14-Jul-14 21:46:14

How can we gain comfort that the local offer won't just be lowest possible offer.
Secondly, if we do get PB should suppliers be 'qualified'
The fight for a statement is currently disgusting and my local authority admitted to writing illegal statements because most parents aren't clever enough to argue or understand. Hmmm they're people fighting for the best for my children - not

annebullin Mon 14-Jul-14 22:04:37

Will the new code of practice support parents who choose to have their child assessed privately?

There are schools that will not accept the findings of highly skilled professionals, because parents have commissioned a private report. They instead insist on referring children through the NHS system, clogging up the waiting lists and wasting public funds unnecessarily.

Hassled Mon 14-Jul-14 22:29:58

How are you going to monitor the effectiveness of the provision that is bought in through Personal Budgets?

SittingNextToSanta Mon 14-Jul-14 22:34:59

I understand the funds the school would obtain via school action plus are no longer available, how are the school going to fund equipment recommended by Dr's and OT's, for example netbooks and stools with backs in Science/Tech?

AgnesDiPesto Mon 14-Jul-14 22:35:01

What research is there to support a graduated approach for SEN?

Surely you are aware that this is used as an excuse by LAs up and down the country to force children with very obvious needs to fail for longer to delay funding.

Why can't you just remove ref to graduated approach from the SENCOP, it adds nothing - the criteria to put in early, appropriate support says it all - for some children appropriate will mean graduated and for others it will mean immediate and intensive. (It will also solve your dilemma about the conflict between early intervention and graduated intervention wording in COP). Let parents and professionals use their judgment to decide what a child needs.

In other countries my son would have got 25 hours a week specialist intervention from when he regressed with autism at age 2. Instead it took 2 years, 2 tribunals, an increased mortgage, failing in a mainstream nursery, 2 extra years with no means of communication and associated aggression and self harm, me giving up work (stopping paying tax and going onto carer allowance and tax credits) and becoming his ABA therapist to prove he needed more than the graduated mainstream approach (and could achieve far more than I was being advised by mainstream, SLT and autism outreach who were writing off his lack of progress as SLD when in fact he is highly intelligent).

My son will never get those 2 years back. He's now doing well in mainstream school as part of an ABA programme awarded by tribunal (the only child in the LA to have one as they have a published policy not to fund ABA without tribunal) but there is no doubt if he had had access to ABA at age 2 instead of 4 he would be much further along.

Please answer the ABA questions. And go and see some ABA. I am more than happy for you to come and see my son on his ABA programme in mainstream school. And for his mainstream school to tell you how well it works having outside ABA professionals coming in and working with them. Or his mainstream teacher telling me she has learnt more in one term of working alongside ABA staff than in 10 years in three LAs with numerous children with autism in her classes.

If you needed a medical operation who would you want to perform it - the specialist with a degree / Masters / PHD and 100's hours of supervised practice following an evidence based method or the amateur who has been on a 3 hour course about it - or worse - been told by someone else who has been on a 3 hour course what to do. This is the reality for those of use with children with significant disabilities. This is why children pour out of mainstream in late primary / get excluded even with full statements etc because the people asked to help them don't have the expertise (or time) to do it. Cheap provision doesn't = good value. You only need to look at the adult social care budget to see that.

sickofsocalledexperts Mon 14-Jul-14 22:39:50

Gosh great post Agnes ! I would love him to see modern ABA/VB in one of the 14 state-funded ABA schools, eg Rainbow or the fab Ysgol y Gogarth in N Wales

Madrigals Mon 14-Jul-14 22:59:33

My question is about school admissions. My DS is summer born, has been deaf for a year (now treated) and therefore had a speech delay. I am required to send him to school at 4.1 regardless of his personal needs because I understand LEAs are in practice applying an 'exceptional circumstances' criterion to deferring a year and he isn't severely delayed enough to meet those criteria.

I know blanket lea policies on this are not allowable but is it not possible for guidance to be sent to leas telling them they should generally allow requests to defer unless there are exceptional reasons not to do so?

AgnesDiPesto Mon 14-Jul-14 23:03:03

Sickof DS joined this school midway through the year. We didn't know until afterwards but a child with autism (I think less severe social / language problems etc than DS) had just left the class - effectively excluded for behaviour - very similar to how bad DS behaviour was before ABA.

DS school report last week describes him as 'a pleasure to teach' 'gentle' 'adored by everyone' and 'positive asset to class'. Thats the same teacher in the same class as the boy who left. Thats the difference ABA / high quality intervention makes.

I bet anything the teacher thinks about the other boy and how it could all have been different now she has seen what can be done.

Widowcyril Mon 14-Jul-14 23:23:34

So many questions about this remain, particularly regarding the part played / filled by Parent Carer Forums which seems to have transitioned from their original purpose of true representation and partners in policy making to just information sharing and box ticking.

However, the most pressing question(s) for me would be:

Q. If the whole system is to be transparent and robust, then does the Minister consider it essential that, where the system and complaints procedures fail to adequately address issues, that children are afforded appropriate and effective formal legal representation and recourse which should be free of charge to the child and their families, rather than leave such costs to be covered at the expense of the family, thus creating further child poverty or are such costs to be covered by DLA?

Q. The system is greatly weighted in favor of only those who are able and informed. Where the information roll-out has failed to extend beyond the Parent Carer Forums, what will the government do to protect these children and families and how will they prevent them being left at the mercy of or open to the interpretations of school SENCO's and Local Authorities?

Sorry, I don't usually post but hope you don't mind my asking a second question.

Oh, as we tend to be very friendly, hospitable types and being politically neutral here on MN, may I offer you a choice of the following: bike biscuit brew wine. Apologies for the lack of beaker smiley here at hotel MN.

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