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Sarah Teather, Minister of State for Children and Families, live webchat TODAY, Monday 16th July, 10.30am to 11.30am

(185 Posts)
FrancesMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 13-Jul-12 13:10:58

We're pleased to announce that Sarah Teather, Minister of State for Children and Families, will be joining us for a live webchat on Monday 16 July at 10.30 am. When elected to Parliament, Sarah was the youngest MP in Britain. She has previously served as Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Community and Local Government, Education, and Housing.

As part of the biggest reforms to SEN provision in 30 years, the government has recently announced the Children and Families bill. Sarah is specifically keen to get Mumsnetter's views on the proposed changes to SEN and statements. Further information about the changes are available

Ms Teather also has responsibility for policy areas like childcare and early education, and the Children and Families bill will also deal with care proceedings in family courts, children's welfare in cases of relationship breakdown, and fostering and adoption arrangements.

Do please join us on Monday; if you can't make it on the day, please post up your questions in advance here.

HotheadPaisan Fri 13-Jul-12 13:18:28

Welcome, how are you going to ensure the new Education, Health and Care Plans are legally enforceable?

If academies are found to be outside of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal system, what will the government do to ensure children with disabilities have the same choices as others to go to their local academy schools? What legal redress will there be if these independent schools refuse entry to children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities?

HotheadPaisan Fri 13-Jul-12 13:49:09

Good information here re: Every Disabled Child Matters campaign publishes results of survey on Government SEN and disability reforms and here.

I like the idea of personal health and education support budgets for those who want them, it works well in social care.

There is still far too much paperwork and too many assessments and it is all utterly irrelevant if your local school refuses entry and there is no redress.

There MUST be strong statutory legislation behind these changes with clear and swift routes of legal redress for children with disabilities being refused access to services.

This would effectively makes it more financially beneficial for LAs and PCTs to meet the needs of children with SEN and Disabilities than procrastinate and spend the money and resources on legal fees in order to defend the indefensible. And their refusals and challenges are indefensible which is why they keep losing legal cases.

StopBadgercull Fri 13-Jul-12 17:17:57

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

SNM Fri 13-Jul-12 17:30:45

Hi. My name is Tania Tirraoro and I am co-chair of Family Voice Surrey parent-carer forum. On behalf of FVS, I sit on both the Surrey Local Change Board and the EHCP workstream, part of the SE pathfinder. I have two statemented teenage sons with ASD and I am also the founder of the website, Special Needs Jungle.

I can see how hard parents and professionals alike are working on this reform and how much many LA staff want to do things differently. There are many challenges and details to be worked out and worked through. Our EHCP trial isn't even set to start until September, and we are far from alone.

I would like to ask: What is your objection to listening to (as opposed to hearing) all those expert voices who are telling you that any draft bill should be delayed until the New Year?

A delay of a few months won't stop this process (described by someone in your department as an 'unstoppable train', rather worryingly), but it will give those involved time to work through the pilots, making adjustments as they go without feeling the unnecessary pressure of looming legislation.
The genie is out of the bottle - reform will happen, but you'll be remembered much more favourably if you give them time to do their work without the extra pressure that fitting into an artificial timetable will bring and you will end up with a stronger, more sustainable system that will really work for children with SEN & disabilities and their families.

Stephen Kingdom, your DfE colleague, told me last week the process will evolve and it won't be a final bill - if that's so, why bother publishing it until you actually have solid results to use?
Thank you for your time.

I want to know the answers to what Hothead asked as I am really interested in the new scheme and am unfortunately not in a pilot scheme area.

For me I have a child who has always been special school, has always been reluctant to go and has refused for the last few year. He is out of school for reasons he has disclosed, which the school won't accept, where do you go from there??

He is however educated by the LA at home and has been medically signed off. So far the LA still want his old school named in part 4 but I have asked them to list education otherwise. Where do I take this battle??

Will be back if I think of more.

moosemama Fri 13-Jul-12 18:42:07

I second HotheadPaisan's questions regarding acadamies.

I would also like to know whether, under the new system, LEAs will be held accountable and have consequences for deliberate time-wasting and forcing parents into appeals.

Under the current system, LEAs have absolutely no reason to stop the common practice of forcing parents to appeal only to pull out at the last minute with no redress, leaving parents who very often cannot afford it, having to pay hefty bills for all the legal or advocate support they have had to employ. In reality this is creating a two tier system, whereby children whose parents do not have the means, either financial or otherwise, to appeal to SENDIST end up with inadequate provision.

Similarly, what consequences will there be for authorities that flagrantly ignore and abuse the SENCOP by refusing to specify and quantify provision until forced to do so at tribunal?

... and finally what consequences will there be for LEAs who fail to issue statements within the specified timescales?

In short I suppose, will there be any more accountability for LEAs that blatantly abuse the system and will there finally be defined consequences for this sort of behaviour?

ebsln Fri 13-Jul-12 18:50:52

The Minister for Schools has said that he believes that good quality school libraries are a valuable resource. However, he sees no reason to make them statutory. In light of the fact that not all schools have libraries, and that an increasing number of secondary schools have recently decided to dispense with either their libraries or their librarians or both, would Sarah comment on whether she thinks it fair that some children are supported in this way while others are not? The particular individual support a good librarian can give is especially important to vulnerable children.

HaitchJay Fri 13-Jul-12 18:56:16

So many questions...

Meglet Fri 13-Jul-12 19:14:07

I would like to know how the Coalition sleep at night seeing as they are determined to push so many children and families into near poverty with fewer opportunities in life.

bcb567 Fri 13-Jul-12 19:16:44

School libraries provide a range of resources for all levels and abilities of the school community including SEN children. Professional librarians know their stock, what is suitable for different reading levels and differentiate activities to make them inclusive. More importantly, school libraries are recognised as a "safe" haven for vulnerable children. In my school library, several SEN children have found a role as a helper than enables them to be a useful and valued member of the school community. However, as school libraries are not statutory, not all schools have one. Do you not think that ALL children should have equal access to a library, a professional librarian, and the support and services they can provide?

swanthingafteranother Fri 13-Jul-12 19:38:41

My child has a diagnosis of HFA/Asperger's and he is about to enter Yr 6. So far we have not applied for a statement, a) because it is a long and complicated process b) we have been told it is extremely difficult to get one with current cutbacks. Does new system mean we should NOT bother to steel ourselves to apply for a statement for secondary school (we have been told this is extremely important, as secondary is so much more challenging for ASD children) as clinical diagnosis alone will entitle him to substantial support? As you can imagine, our time/money would be better spent dealing with day to day challenges of ASD than fighting the LEA for a statement.

Gilly48 Fri 13-Jul-12 20:18:19

How does it make Ms Teather feel to know that inmates of our prisons have a statutory right to a library but children attending schools have no such right? Left as it is, to the whim of the Headteacher, many schools are finding that in this time of great austerity, the library and/or a qualified librarian are the first to face the axe. This won't stop until school libraries are a statutory requirement. Your comments please?

northernglam Fri 13-Jul-12 21:24:37

What do you think about the idea of an automatic right to EHCP plan for any child with a lifelong condition (e.g. CP, ASD, Downs) - with an opt out if parents and professionals genuinely agree that a Plan is not needed for a particular child? The NAS say only 60% of children with autism nationally have a Statement, yet we know only 15% of adults with autism have full-time work, so the indicates too few children are getting the right level of support. An automatic entitlement would remove a lot of the cost, delay and fighting that goes on when children who obviously need a Statement are denied one. I am concerned one of the outcomes of your proposals will be that the number of Statements will drop substantially as LAs rush to get children off their books before a legal duty to age 25 comes in. Putting in place automatic entitlements to EHCP for at least some conditions would provide some protection against this.

I am concerned that the Government plans completely dodge the issue of home programmes (for autism in particular, such as ABA) despite the growing evidence base for home programmes particularly for very young children. There is government support for ABA at school age (Treehouse and new Lighthouse Free School in Leeds) but nothing said about it for younger children even though this is the age range where it is widely accepted that there is the most evidence of efficacy. There is also little said about the role of independent specialist providers generally in the Green Paper. Will the legislation enshrine in law the 2002 ASD Guidance and APPGA advice that home programmes should be part of any local offer? Will it be clear in legislation that parents can choose personal budgets for accredited home programmes?

I would urge you to get out and see highly regarded ABA providers doing programmes at home and in mainstream settings with young children and then go into mainstream nurseries using eclectic methods and see for yourself the vast difference in the quality of teaching. I would really encourage you to sit down with a group of parents who do ABA - there are many of us on this board who would be willing to meet you grin - and hear what a difference ABA has made to our children, their siblings and our lives. Some of us can also tell you about the highly paid professional careers we have had to give up and the houses we have had to sell or remortgage because of the lie that our childrens needs can be met by mainstream staff who have been on a 1 day autism awareness course.

You are suggesting nursery places for disabled children as young as 2. This worries me. I am concerned LAs will use this to tell parents they must put their child in nursery to have their SEN met and if they don't they will be treated as home educating and given no financial support for their child's SEN (as currently happens for over 3's where free childcare has become the default special educational provision). My child with ASD gained little from nursery until he was 4, and then only because we won at Tribunal a ABA programme and were able to replace the well intentioned, but ultimately clueless, nursery 1:1 with an ABA specialist 1:1. Even then he went only 9 hours a week and functioned at the level of a 18 month to 2 year old, he now goes to mainstream school for 15 hours a week at age 5.5 with the intention to increase gradually once he has gained skills to learn in a group.

Children with developmental delays may well not be ready for mainstream until they are older. In other countries the model would be home programme of therapy then gradual transitioning into nursery provision - perhaps specialist first then mainstream. In the USA it would be common for children not to be mainstreamed until age 6, from a position of strength having mastered pre requisite skills. What is your evidence base that mainstream nursery places are better for autistic 2 year olds than home programmes, specialist nurseries etc etc. Why are you blindly going down the road of extending mainstream SEN provision younger and younger when there is no research to show that it has been a success for over 3's, indeed no research has been done at all. There is a world of difference between a child having SEN due to a deprived home and where the child will gain from the stimulation at nursery because it is a better environment than at home; and a child who has SEN due to an underlying condition and for whom a mainstream setting is the most challenging environment possible and probably the last place he will be able to learn.

Why have you stopped publishing the SEN data by LA? We were starting to be able to hold our LA to account for their shocking outcomes, only for the data to disappear from publication this year.

My LA is a Pathfinder. Despite in effect already having a personal budget (ordered by tribunal) of ABA delivered partly at home and partly in a mainstream setting (i have control of which ABA provider to use and arrange it, the LA just pays the invoices); when I asked to have a personal budget for speech therapy (the NHS speech therapy dept has no ASD expertise) I was refused and told the LA had a 'power' as a Pathfinder to give personal budgets but no 'duty'. This seems contrary to the 2011 Order. As I understand it my LA intends to offer personal budgets to just 6 young adults as part of its pilot - it has decided that the group of under 5's for whom it is piloting the EHCP will not be offered personal budgets as there is no duty to do so. This does not seem to me what was intended.

NotOnUrNelly Fri 13-Jul-12 21:41:54

following on from Moosemama's point about the current SENCOP, I understand a revised code will be issued - please can Ms Teather reassure us that this will be in the form of statutory guidance and NOT an informal code of practice. A statutory code is binding on everyone except the courts. Schools and LEAs still manage not to comply with the statutory SENCOP - the risk it would be that an informal code would have even less teeth.

Secondly if your child is fortunate enough to have a statement have a formal annual review which gives the opportunity to review whether the statement is appropriate to the child's changng needs. Will EChP's be reviewed at regular intevals?

ElBurroSinNombre Fri 13-Jul-12 22:14:39

Sarah's hoping that Jeremy Paxman does not use MumsNet

DebJay Fri 13-Jul-12 22:28:42

As a mother of two autistic children I welcome any changes that enable greater collaboration between different services to provide an EHC plan and an option to control personal budgets. However, I would like to ask the following questions:

I am very concerned about those special needs children who do not meet the criteria for an EHC plan. If the graduated approach is to be abolished how will the government ensure that these children's needs will get identified and supported. What resources will schools be given to support these pupils?

I am also concerned about 16+ provision. You state that the EHC plans will last till a young person is 25 but there is inadequate provision in the further education sector. What will the government be doing to create further FE provision for special needs children?

Finally, what support will be given to those children who are unable to access schooling due to medical and mental health problems. My child has been out of school for a year due to an anxiety disorder and ASD. As I understand it, they are only entitled to about 5 hours of home tuition a week (provided by the local authority). This is totally inadequate for those children who are out of school long term. Will the government be proposing to increase support for this group of children?

I look forward to hearing Sarah's responses to these questions. Thankyou.

Exactly Deb, however after 2 year of LA home tuition we have progressed to 9 hours per week and this will be readdressed in Sept. So it is doable depending on child and need.

My DS is severely disabled and needs 24/7 care requiring 2 adults, yet all I get is 9 hours support from a home tutor per week. Due to his needs and not being able to leave the house we now have no respite, including overnight stays for which we are assessed as needing whether that be a weekend or a week.

Shagmundfreud Fri 13-Jul-12 23:33:43

My 7 year old has been on the waiting list for an assessment by CAMHS for suspected ASD for seven months now in Croydon. In the past year CAMHs have had their budget cut and have reduced the number is assessment sessions by a half despite very long pre-existing waiting lists. My understanding is that a 2010 ruling meant that a GP referral for consultant treatment within 18 weeks is legally enforceable. Why does this rule not appear to apply to children who have been referred by their GPs to CAMHS for psychiatric assessments?

Shagmundfreud Fri 13-Jul-12 23:33:48

My 7 year old has been on the waiting list for an assessment by CAMHS for suspected ASD for seven months now in Croydon. In the past year CAMHs have had their budget cut and have reduced the number is assessment sessions by a half despite very long pre-existing waiting lists. My understanding is that a 2010 ruling meant that a GP referral for consultant treatment within 18 weeks is legally enforceable. Why does this rule not appear to apply to children who have been referred by their GPs to CAMHS for psychiatric assessments?

coff33pot Sat 14-Jul-12 00:43:14

My 7yr old is out of school. I took him out. After the school continuously would not comply with all the statement. Excluded him due to his disability, excluded him for 2 days for not writing (he has specific LD in that area and reading). Illegally excluded him for a total of 80 + half days or more despite having full funding of 25 hours.Taking his excercise away, refusing to go on courses to learn about Aspergers, sensory integration, adhd, tourettes. Excluding him from a school trip the DAY BEFORE he was to go.

I emailed Mr Gove. Got a standard out of office reply saying he will PERSONALLY reply in so many days. Low and behold I get a "standard" email with a few bits filled in from one of his staff telling me to go to LGO and listing more of what Mr Gove cant do rather than what he can which didnt amount to anything at all.

This school is now an Academy and this school has outstanding ofstead but fails SN children miserably. How can the Green Paper enforce academies to act on anything. How can the green paper ENSURE that should a parent receive personal funding to pay for services that the school Academy or MS is going to take the paid services into school and listen to them? How is the Green Paper going to put an end to the stress, heartbrake, misery and lack of education the children are suffering whist parents are forced to tribunals with lengthy waits that can sometimes be too late.

How can this Green Paper stop parents feeling like they have let their child down because they dont have the money for solicitors to fight them and the schools are getting away with murder because of it.

CouthyMow Sat 14-Jul-12 02:25:17

As a mother of two DC's with SEN's, I have a few questions :

1) In a town like mine, where all Secondaries will be Academies, as part of an Academy Consortium that share the same addmission criteria, how will you ensure that a DC with statement will have a school place in their town if the entire Academy Consortium refuses to admit them, and the Academy Consortium cannot be forced to admit a statemented pupil despite the SEN COP?

2) Why are there talks of getting rid of School Action (SA) and School Action Plus (SA+)? What is going to be put in place for those DC's that don't quite meet the criteria for a statement (which in some areas like Essex are ridiculously high), but will leave school functionally illiterate and innumerate without any support?

I will quantify this with the fact that my 14yo DD is currently on SA+, working at level 3's and 4's at the end of Y9 - and that has only been achieved with intensive support from the school from Y7-Y9. She entered Y7 working towards NC level 1. Despite not reaching a Reception level at the end of Y6, my LEA would not even assess her for a statement as she was not far enough behind...which leads me to my next question :

3) Just HOW far behind will 'qualify' for support in school? Will it be the current criteria for SA? Which in my LEA is apparently, according to a letter received from my Primary Senco yesterday, is a 1b at the end of Y3, an illegal blanket policy according to IPSEA, that has had numerous legal challenges, and doesn't take into account that a child entering Y4 with levels of 1a is going to be unable to access the majority of the curriculum, and therefore learn not very much from that point onwards without adequate support.

Will it be the current level for SA+, which I would imagine to be even more of an attainment gap in my LEA, coupled with outside involvement from medical professionals - and therefore if they lose the help needed to access the majority of the curriculum and they lose the help they are getting to access the majority of the curriculum, they will not progress AT ALL.

They have to be in a pretty dire way to be on SA+, like my DD not knowing her number bonds to 10 at the end of Y6, in Essex - just having the outside involvement from the medical professionals is not enough here, though according to the SEN COP it SHOULD BE, they have to have a 5 sublevel drift from the National average for that year group to be put on SA, so it must be at LEAST a 7/8 sublevel drift from the National average for that year group AND have outside involvement from medical professionals to even be considered for SA+, so god only KNOWS how many sublevels drift you have to have here for my LEA to assess for a statement. 9? 10? Unable to attain a NC level 1 in Y9?

4) How will the Secretary of State keep up with complaints from the parents of SEN DC from every Academy in the Country? I have posed this question to the head of DD's Comprehensive, which will be converting to Academy status on the 1st September, as will all the other local schools as part of the Consortium, back in November, and she has as yet been unable to answer this question, as she cannot get any feedback on this...

5) Is this the end of Inclusion as a Government policy, and if so, what is going to replace inclusion for those DC that will be unable to access the curriculum in a Mainstream school when no additional support is provided for them? Will we see more SEN schools, and specialised SEN schools, being opened to take all the DC's that are unable to access the curriculum in Mainstream schools as they are not getting any support any more?

6) If this is NOT the end of Inclusion as a meaningful Government policy, but many many children with SEN's will lose ALL the help they were getting to access the curriculum (remember, in Essex, they have to be at least 5 NC sublevels behind just to be put on SA, 7/8 NC sublevels behind AND outside involvement to be put on SA+), then WHAT WILL BE DONE FOR THESE DC'S?

TIA for your answers to these questions.

<thinks Jeremy Paxman is nothing compared to Mners>

Iceflower Sat 14-Jul-12 08:29:25

1) I would like to ask: What is your objection to listening to (as opposed to hearing) all those expert voices who are telling you that any draft bill should be delayed until the New Year?

As SNM said above, I am extremely concerned by the timescale. I am on the Single Assessment and Plan workstream of my pathfinder authority, and am worried that the trial is being made to fit the timescale. For example, only 20 children across the whole age group are being piloted, and of this 20, 19 already have a statement and 1 has a draft statement. The reasoning behind this selection is that there is not enough time to go through the 26 week statementing process. The only thing that will effectively be trialled in this pathfinder is how keyworkers will fit in the system, ie voluntary sector, involved professionals or paid independent. As far as personal budgets are concerned, only social care is being trialled.

As of today, keyworkers have not been appointed or trained, and the trial will not start until they have been.

The professionals involved are dedicated and caring, but they are floundering and often question how the new EHCP will be better. Much time is spent discussing how to design the look of the new Plan.

How will my pathfinder authority be able to report meaningfully in time for the planned draft legislation?

2) Can you assure me that as Health and Social Care will be part of the new EHCP, will those components be legally enforceable as for Education?

Thank you.

ArthurPewty Sat 14-Jul-12 08:46:18

I dont have anything to add except to reiterate the question of the legal enforceability of EHCPs.

And the one about LAs dragging parents to appeal as a delay tactic, only to pull out days before the hearing - this has JUST happened to us, in June. Disgusting practice. Absolutely shockingly disgusting.

As for personal budgets, that's a a creepy notion really - what about parents who dont know what to spend it on?

lionheart Sat 14-Jul-12 09:10:07

I would second what ShagmundFreud says about CAMHs, which is often the first service parents on the road to a diagnosis, encounter.

Why is no one held accountable for the cuts to this service--in my area, the provision has also been halved, when they clearly have long waiting lists already?

This is obviously just one example of the services parent of children with SN or SEN might need to access and the ludicrous waiting game that has to be played. Add physio, SALT, OT and so on to the list of frugal provision and and see what kind of a mess is created.

Iceflower Sat 14-Jul-12 09:33:19

Do you think the EHCP will actualy lead to more parents going to tribunal, rather than less? The current sen statement, with all its faults, has been well trialled and legal precedents set. LAs may be tempted to "try things on" as there are no legal precedents - how will you address this?

Also, I would like to echo what others have said about LAs taking parents to the brink of tribunal. My solicitor was 99% certain I would win as my LA had no case against dd, and yet we were subjected to numerous delays and stalling. The LA caved in 5 minutes into the hearing, having brought a 9-strong team to the hearing. What a waste of council taxes!

The LA instigated a child protection investigation the week before the hearing when there was no evidence against us, and were of course cleared. All this is part of the intimidation and bullying designed to put parents off appealing.

How will this change with the EHCP?

GetKnitted Sat 14-Jul-12 10:35:04

Do you have any practical measures in line that could possibly reduce the cost of early years childcare without affecting the quality of the care?

I think the senior cabinet members are completely out of touch with reality on this issue. They don't seem to understand that nursery nurses are paid at or near minimum wage in many nurseries across the country, or that neighbourhoods have a dearth of registered child-minders because the EYFS seems to change every time you blink.

Offred Sat 14-Jul-12 10:38:26

I have nothing to ask, I just wanted to express how angry and upset I am with how you have performed in your position as well as how your party has performed in Government. What is happening to children and families, sure start and more is disgusting and despicable. I feel very sorry for it and for you and your party as architects of despair. sad

r3dh3d Sat 14-Jul-12 11:22:01

I'd like to thank SNM for Thursday's presentations, which were mostly excellent - including hers!

I have a heap of questions for Ms Treacher, but I may not be able to be online at 10:30. MNHQ, How much of what we are pre-submitting is going to be answered? Can you get some confirmation of this before Monday, as I may cancel other committments to be online.

NotOnUrNelly Sat 14-Jul-12 11:35:22

re: Parental budgets for purchasing services...
Can you guarantee that under the new system, the services will be "there" to purchase once we have decded what we need to buy?

eg. will the Autism outreach lady for our LEA be privatised and available to all to purchase? Will I be able to access her for a fee even if my school is 'out of borough'? will schools tender for AO and then ask parents to pay for their 'prefered supplier' of AO services? who will regulate inspect such offerings?

Hi Sarah
I have a son who is starting school in January, he is currently at nursery.

He was born at 28 weeks and obviously, this has impacted on lots of his life. He has ongoing problems with his lungs, asthma, restricted airway disorder amongst other things, and his attendance is poor. The weather affects him terribly.

At the moment, there seems to be nothing in the education rule books to help children like my son, who, through no fault of their own become unwell and have to miss school. He also has behaviour issues and severe allergies, which mean I am worried sick about him being away all day.

Through Bliss, I put the same question to Michael Gove, about there being rules in place for children like my son, but he literally laughed it off, saying that if there were excuses made for one type of child then everyone would think up an excuse for bad attendance etc. Which frankly made me livid as he clearly had no empathy with parents like myself.

I worry that I will be dragged through the courts as others have been, I worry because schools now have a policy whereby the pupils may only be absent if they are suffering a sickness bug, hence those with coughs and viruses are at school and obviously unlike them my son will become very ill on catching these germs from other children. My daughter, who is not in the same position was classed as unauthorised absent for being off school with a severe cold in the winter.

Do you agree that something needs to be written in to legislation regarding chronic illness sufferers? Our job as parents is hard enough without feeling like we will be classed as too lazy to take our child to school.

moosemama Sat 14-Jul-12 12:19:51

shock at Gove! TheLazyGirlBlog, that is truly outrageous and sadly, as you said, a glimpse of the very real lack of empathy and understanding certain high and mighty MPs have for real people who live in the real world with all the accompanying real issues and problems that brings. angry

It kind of highlights the whole crux of the matter doesn't it - the government simply does not have a clue. angry

RowanMumsnet (MNHQ) Sat 14-Jul-12 12:30:04


I'd like to thank SNM for Thursday's presentations, which were mostly excellent - including hers!

I have a heap of questions for Ms Treacher, but I may not be able to be online at 10:30. MNHQ, How much of what we are pre-submitting is going to be answered? Can you get some confirmation of this before Monday, as I may cancel other committments to be online.

Hi there,

As with all webchats, we will try to get through as much as possible; we can't absolutely promise that everything will be answered though.

Sorry if that sounds unhelpful - obviously there are lots of really substantial questions here already (before the chat's even started!) and we only have an hour, so we can't give guarantees. But we will do our best (as I'm sure the Minister will too).


CouthyMow Sat 14-Jul-12 12:31:50

Ah, yes, time off for severe asthma and respiritory illnesses. My DS2 has chronic asthma, and is often on steroids for it, and too weak to attend school. He also had to have a chunk of time off this year, due to being immune-suppressed through taking prednisolone for his asthma at the same time a chickenpox was going round the school. He ended up having almost 3 weeks off school in a row. He also caught 3 tummy bugs resulting in D&V necessitating 48 hours off school each time.

His attendance this year was down to 88.5%. This was his worst year yet. No provision was put in place to help him through the education he missed, despite having been off school for over 14 days. No home tutor, nothing. Not even for an hour a day.

My other two DC's had much better attendance. DD has numerous health issues herself, yet her attendance was 92%, and my DS1's attendance was 95.5% - he was only absent due to D&V, but due to being coeliac, D&V affects him worse than most, and he has to have more than the 48 hours off.

What provision is going to be put in place for DC's with health issues, whose attendance is never going to match that of perfectly healthy DC? Will the EWO be involved much earlier? What will the EWO be able to do? (Except to tell me that my DS2 should be in school on a day when he was still on oxygen in hospital?)

CouthyMow Sat 14-Jul-12 12:43:37

Will the personal budgets allow us to 'buy in' treatments like SALT and OT without the indeterminate length wait between appointments on the NHS?

And how will these personal budgets work for an adult in FE? I am concerned for my DBro, who is currently at University with a full statement that means he gets a lot of extra support, such as a laptop with special programs on that mean he can talk his pieces to the laptop, and it types the work up for him due to the fact that he has severe hypermobility syndrome that causes his finger joints to sublux (dislocate) when he writes or types. He also has additional support for his Aspergers. My DBro is 21yo.

And what happens when an older child with disabilities, SEN or other health issues turns 25? Does all the support they were getting stop?

I worry about this because under the current system in my LA, Adult Social Care budgets are so overstretched that they will come out, do a Care Needs Assessment, send you a report telling you what they feel you need Care-wise, and then they tell you that as you are under 60, and all their Adult Social Care budget goes on Care for the over-60's, they cannot provide what they say you need.

Will these new personal budgets prevent that from happening?

And if everyone who needs it can get the money for their support and Care needs, won't that ultimately cost the LA's and Government MORE money - because at the moment the budget for Adult Social Care is VERY rationed. If it is no longer rationed, and the LA can't deny you the funds you need for your personal budget due to budgetary constraints and prioritising need for the over-60's, where is that money going to come from?

Has the Government based this idea on the details of those currently receiving help from the Adult Social Care departments? Because if so, it will give a very skewed picture of the true costs of allowing everyone who HAS Care needs to apply for, and receive, a personal budget to purchase the help their Care Needs Assessment says they need.

I think that the Government is severely underestimating the true long-term cost of this initiative. It'll be great for people like me who are aged between 25 and 60 that have unmet Care needs though...grin

How will you ensure personal budgets remain truly flexible?

When direct payments were introduced we were able to spend the money as we wished (within reason obviously - and knowing that the spendings would be audited). Now - with LA budget cuts - we have to agree for a year in advance how many hours a week will be spent on what, supposedly with no flexibility to change without a trip to panel. Please note I am not talking about changes to the amount received, rather changes to way in which the money is spent. So in past I could spend so much money on an extra pair of hands to help me get out the house with ds1 one week, and another amount on having someone look after him a different week. Now I supposedly have to know a year in advance how I will be spending the money - and every week should be the same. This is completely impractical - my son's needs are not the same each week, or even day to day (he is 13, severely autistic, non-verbal, has severe learning disabilities and challenging behaviours).

One of the biggest advantages to direct payments (their flexibility) has gone. In the meantime the biggest disadvantage (paperwork) has increased. I like the idea of personal budgets but the burden for managing direct payments at least is often great for families already struggling with getting through the day. How will you ensure the same doesn't happen with personal budgets?

NotOnUrNelly Sat 14-Jul-12 13:05:34

dunno, RowanMuMsnet of MNHQ - suspect the honest answer to a lot of these will be quick, namely - "Oh, we hadn't thought about that side of it..." Where we are raising issues she does not have an answer on, please could there be a mechanism for her to report back /provide an update?

DebJay Sat 14-Jul-12 14:16:15

After talking to other people online and in my own community I really would like to stress my concern with children out of school like my child. I'm not talking about children who truant but those who are ill or who can't cope with school due to emotional/mental health reasons.

The government talk about inclusion and 'every child matters' and if this is so what will the government do to help these children access education in their own homes? A few hours a week is not enough; we need a proper programme of education and therapy to help children like my son who has autism and an anxiety disorder which makes going to school (even special school) very challenging.

I feel this group of children and young people are hugely overlooked and too often parents (like me) are treated as if we are to blame for our children's non attendance when in fact it is due to illness/disability.

I would like to hear what Sarah Teather has to say about this matter.


HotheadPaisan Sat 14-Jul-12 14:31:16

Social care refused to move some of our allocation to direct payments towards the end of DS1's first year of receiving them. I needed to do this as the provider supplying a helper could not meet the hours and I'd found someone who could. Terrible not to have this flexibility so we lost the payments.

HotheadPaisan Sat 14-Jul-12 14:46:16
r3dh3d Sat 14-Jul-12 15:21:41

Agree with NotOnUrNelly - the issue with the Green Paper was it was incredibly vague and left all the difficult questions of how the good ideas would be implemented to the pathfinders. And it's clear that some of the pathfinders are struggling to find the answers and the rest have barely got started on the questions. So pretty much every answer is bound to be: "we don't know yet, but we intend... <insert good intention here>" We need an update mechanism on this one, as it's too early in the process for her to have all the answers at her fingertips.

RowanMumsnet (MNHQ) Sat 14-Jul-12 15:34:37


dunno, RowanMuMsnet of MNHQ - suspect the honest answer to a lot of these will be quick, namely - "Oh, we hadn't thought about that side of it..." Where we are raising issues she does not have an answer on, please could there be a mechanism for her to report back /provide an update?

We often ask webchat guests whether they'd like to follow up on questions that require more thinking about/input/time to answer; whether guests actually do this is (of course) up to them and can depend a lot on how busy they are. That said, we'll make sure that we pass your concerns on to the Minister - it would certainly be great if she can follow up after the webchat, and we'll do our best.

Peachy Sat 14-Jul-12 16:04:55

Dear Sarah Teather,

I am Mum to 4 boys, two of whom have a diagnosis of autism and statements and access specialist placements; one who is being assessed (although we have been called to see Paediatrician as an emergency in a few weeks after the results of genetic tests came through), and for whom I am about to apply for a statement, and a child who has had an IEP on School Action for three years.

I also used to work for HomeStart and am close to completing an MA in Autism (part time over several years).

Some questions:

1. Why is provision for children with SEN not more diverse? I have a child with fairly severe autism who can neither access mainstream nor a Base at comp level due to his Sn but is predicated level 5's in some areas and will almost certainly have to stop accessing an academic curriculum- or be withdrawn and taught from home. My eldest son attends a Base and is thriving but ds3 has been really let down.

2. Are you aware how awful the provisions for respite are? I am constantly told that I am intelligent and should cope so qualify for nothing; due to the fact that both statemented boys attend a group in the opposite direction by many miles in the summer I was given a taxi for a few weeks for one of them, but that ended after one term and I had to comfort the last at the provision whose taxi had been lost and I presume given to me. I am exhausted- utterly, completely exhausted.

3. What's going on with the attitude to carers with this Government? There is very ambiguous wording about who will qualify as caring for someone severely disabled under Universal Credit; should I be placed on workfare my husband, who is a self employed sole trader, will have to close his business in order to look after the children as we have no family for 60 miles. How is that sensible?

4. DS3 lost his access to SLT when he failed to move forwards at their rate and 'broke the agreement'; we never had more than one or two OT locum visits, and they last saw Ed PSychs several years ago. I was told by an ASD specialist that has DS3 had those he may well have been able to access a Base: thanks.

5. if there is one thing you could do to improve my life it would be to stop professionals commenting on the needs of my children when they have not met them. That is starting to become annoying.

Finally, there is no way I can manage personal budgets for 3 boys, provide their care, and hope to remain sane. Especially if I manage to go back to work, something I hope to do part time in the longer term (if I am not forced to home educate ds3 of course). Will there be options for people like me? Why have the needs of people with a number of disabled children been left out of the entire system, it's not hard to see that caring for 3 disabled children is hard work.

ouryve Sat 14-Jul-12 16:37:51

After my disappointment at the way the Q&A with Sarah Teather was answered - it took a long time for answers to appear and they were clearly direct C&P from policy with little attempt to answer questions not covered directly by policy as dreamt up by No. 10 - I'm not optimistic that the extremely important questions which have been asked here will be answered adequately at all. Of course, I would love to be pleasantly surprised by Ms Teather, but I'm not holding my breath, I'm afraid.

hlevoi Sat 14-Jul-12 17:09:07

I am completely disillusioned with the current provision for children with Special Educational Needs. My personal experience has been a constant fight to get my child's needs met and not being able to do so.
How will you make a difference?
When can we expect to really see that difference?
What do we do in the meantime?

Italiana Sat 14-Jul-12 17:48:16

The cost of childcare is equally expensive for parents and providers to deliver.
Deregulating childminders will not reduce costs but introduce a 'middleman' that will push costs even higher....
Are you listening to parents who do not want c/minders deregulated and are you going to listen to those delivering childcare?
we can tell you why childcare is costly and there are alternatives to deregulation.

assumeresponsibility Sat 14-Jul-12 18:01:33

I am glad to see there are movements being made in the right direction however I have a few concerns.
My first would be for those who have suffered during the 30yr lapse of correct measures to address the true issues surrounding the full education of those with 'SEN'. These people in society are now out of the education system but can still benefit from life coaching and skills. Many have been inhibited by more than their ‘SEN’ but overcoming a challenging adolescent phase and the ignorance in society.
My second concern is how modern government will clearly and explicitly define a spectrum of those with ‘SEN’. This is imperative in order to address the correct teaching styles, class sizes and extra pastoral care.
I have a brother (one of two) who is 11months older than myself and was diagnosed with Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and mild Autism after the progressive campaigning of my mother from an early age.
I have witnessed the trauma he, my mother and immediate family have had to go through to fight for his entitlement for a place at many regional LEA schools and even ‘specialist’ schools that were subsequently closed down. My family have also funded schools and dyslexic ‘clinics’ in the private sector which have also failed what I see as a relatively moderate child with ‘SEN’.
He has gone to specialist schools and been the only moderate child in a class with children who would be perceived as having more severe ‘SEN’ i.e. a class of children with Down’s Syndrome.
It is therefore my first hand experience and thus knowledge which has led me to advise and question whether more pastoral concentration on how the basic skills can be transferred to enable those inhibited by ‘SEN’ can go on to living amongst others in society is to be carried out through the correct identification of a ‘SEN’ spectrum .
It is to my deep sadness that I have had to witness the gross misjudgement and sheer ignorance of officials and of those educated in our society.
Society has progressed from the labelling of ‘naughty child’ to those with ‘SEN’. However a lot has to be done to correctly identify the teaching methods required for the different educational needs and my greatest concern is that of the part extra pastoral care for the child suffering the disadvantage, parents required to concentrate more time and money on widening the opportunities that frankly aren’t present and for the siblings who can work in assisting the progressive skill building for those of ‘SEN’.
Integration may not be possible for all spectrums of those with ‘SEN’ but it is up to the professionals to grasp and plan and phase an integration in education, especially from the critical ages when independence is imminent i.e. 14-18. I feel without this, the vast resources spent at younger ages can be completely forgotten and misallocated.
My brother is 25yrs old and still lives at home with my parents, whilst I have progressed through University and my professional qualification. Whilst he is fully dependant on them he does work in a kitchen at a family friend’s restaurant.
My older brother will remain in the family home until I buy a home and he can live with me. The name of the head of our LEA back those decades ago still haunts me today along with the fundamental neglect of basic education and skill that has inhibited his ability to live independently.

2tirednot2fight Sat 14-Jul-12 19:33:35

I would like to know how the new care plans will be reviewed and who will lead the reviews.

I would like to know how the professionals who work within the services we have no choice but to access will be retrained in order that they can work in a more empathetic manner with children and families and will the processes for identifying and rectifying the damage caused by poor practice be simplified?

I would also like those working with vulnerable children to have a better understanding of disability discrimination within education, will claims against such discrimination still be heard by the tribunal service as they are now? If so, perhaps those that chair the tribunals should have their individual understanding of disability discrimination re evaluated on an ongoing basis to ensure they are not mirroring the discriminatory views our children encounter in schools.

TheTimeTravellersWife Sat 14-Jul-12 20:18:50

I am a parent of a child with Special Educational Needs, who has a Statement of SEN. She is currently attending our local village mainstream primary, with a significant level of support, which we only obtained after taking the Local Education Authority to the SENDIST Tribunal.

There needs to be a better method of ensuring that the provision set out in the Statement/EHCP is provided. At the moment, the only method is by going to Judicial Review, which with proposed cuts to legal aid, is likely to be beyond the ability of the majority of parents to do.

There needs to be a legal requirement for the EHC Plan to specify and quantify the provision to be made, across education, health and care. The plan has to be legally enforceable, it is is not, then it will not be worth the paper it is written on and parents and children will find themselves in a worse situation than they are now.

What will happen in the case of children who already have Statements of SEN? Will they have to go through the Statutory Assessment process again? This would be unnecessarily costly for the LA and stressful for parents. Ideally, their Statements will be seamlessly converted to EHC Plans, without the need for re-assessment.

The Tribunal should be able to take into account unreasonable behaviour by LA during the process of the appeal. In my own case, the LA wilfully ignored the professional advice obtained during the Statutory Assessment; which is the reason why we needed to appeal. We wrote to the LA during the appeal, with a copy of the working document, and they refused to negotiate with us. This is totally unreasonable behaviour. The Statement was unlawful, as it did not specify and quantify provision, as required by the Code of Practice.

However, there are no effective sanctions available when LAs behave in this manner, other than for parents to appeal to the SEND Tribunal. The Tribunal agreed that my daughter required the level of support that was recommended by the professional reports and ordered the LA to amend her Statement accordingly. We suffered stress and expense solely due to the unreasonable attitude of the LA. The Green Paper proposes compulsory mediation, whilst at the same time acknowledging that mediation to date has not worked. Compulsory mediation will prove a failure and simply add to an extension of the overall time-scales involved and parental frustration.

The assessment process should be independent from the Local Education Authority or from the Health Authority, who sadly, will both be influenced by their budgetary constraints.

There is an inherent conflict of interest between the LA both assessing and being responsible for providing special educational provision. In 2006, the House of Commons Select Committee recommended that ‘the link must be broken between assessment and funding of provision’, having concluded that ‘there is an inbuilt conflict of interest in that it is the duty of the local authority both to assess the needs of the child and to arrange provision to meet those needs, and all within a limited resource.’ The Committee had reached this view after hearing evidence, mainly from parents’ organisations, that professional reports and statements often prescribed provision on the basis of cost rather than children’s needs (as required by law). This has been my own personal experience; the Local Education Authority ignored the advice of my daughter's school that she needed virtually full time support, which was supported by the report from her Developmental Paediatrician. When challenged, the LA were unable to provide an explanation of why they had ignored the professional advice obtained from the Statutory Assessment in writing her Statement; the only conclusion that it was possible to reach is that it the LA's decision was based on the cost of providing her with the support she needed in school.

Too often, LA's issue inadequate Statements, knowing that few parents will challenge them by appealing to SEND and also in the knowledge that an appeal to SEND takes on average 6/7 months, and that they will save money during that time, by issuing Statements that do not properly support the child with SEN. It is not unknown for LA to issue unlawful Statements, that fail to specify and quantify provision, as required by the Code of Practice as at present there are no sanctions or penalties if they act in this way. The only redress that parents have is an appeal to the SEND Tribunal. LAs have at their disposal well staffed legal departments and ready access to education solicitors, LA Educational Psychologists and others. Parents do not; they either have to represent themselves or obtain legal advice, which is expensive, as are independent expert reports.

The system is stacked against parents, in favour of the Local Authority. This has to change. The SEND Tribunal should be able to make an award of costs against a LA that has acted unreasonably - issuing an unlawful Statement is clearly unreasonable! I have personal experience of this. I had to appeal to SEND in order to obtain the support that was recommend by the professionals during Statutory Assessment, but that the LA wilfully chose to ignore when writing her Statement; the threat of having an award of costs made against them by the SEND Tribunal would be far more effective in reaching agreement before Tribunal than the proposal for compulsory mediation.

At the moment, the LA have nothing to lose by taking parents all the way to Tribunal; parents on the other hand, may incur substantial costs, in the form of independent reports and the need for legal advice. These costs should be recoverable, as is the case in other fields, "“The costs awards regime seeks to increase the discipline of parties when taking action, through financial consequences for those parties who have behaved unreasonably and have caused unnecessary or wasted expense in the process." Award of costs are also made in some Employment Tribunal cases, so there is a clear precedent for extending this practice to the SEND Tribunal.

At the moment no one is responsible for ensuring that LAs meet their legal obligations towards children with SEN. By default the task falls on parents and those organisations in the voluntary who advise and support them. When parents challenge LAs it is on an individual basis. The SEND Tribunal have no power to compel an LA to change its SEN policy and practice in carrying out its duties, despite having heard repeated evidence on the same issue with the same Authority e.g. on speech and language therapy provision. This is an inefficient use of Tribunal expertise and resources as well as those of the LA.

The SEND Annual report reveals enormous differences between the number of appeals lodged per LA; the reasons behind this need investigating. Some LAs habitual flout the current laws on SEN and hence, the higher number of appeals made to SEND. More importantly, the children of parents who either are unaware of the possibility of challenge, or who do not have the resources to challenge decisions, are disadvantaged if they live in LA that persistently and deliberate flout the law and with unlawful local policies on assessment and provision for special needs.

The Government needs to take action against authorities which have "unwritten policies" applied through custom and practice which nevertheless result in unlawful Statements being issued, otherwise these practices will continue with the new EHCP. Central government need to provide information and training re: the local authorities’ role, so that they can all know their responsibilities, and put into practice what is needed. Financial sanctions should be introduced for local authorities that do not comply with the SEN Statutory Framework.

I very much look forward to reading your response to the important points that I have raised.

HotheadPaisan Sat 14-Jul-12 20:42:54

meTravellersWife's post sums up a lot of the problems perfectly.

ArthurPewty Sat 14-Jul-12 21:06:54

we had the same experience, TTW, and yes, the LA needs to be held responsible for the outrageous time wasting. :/

DontPutBeerInHisEar Sat 14-Jul-12 22:46:42

I love the way Lib Dems are shoved in the firing line to field off the uproar to the more right wing agenda. I don’t envy your position, Sarah Teather.

It has been quoted on a couple of other MN threads (by CouthyMow, I think) that in the Universal Credit Policy Briefing Notes there is a passage which states "Due to a reduction in their income after the changeover to Universal Credit, some families will become collateral damage”.

What exactly do you understand to be meant by collateral damage? It conjures up awful images of culling the poor and disadvantaged in the name of greater good.

Does it mean deaths are anticipated as a direct result of welfare reforms? Or just homelessness and starvation?

How will collateral damage be measured, managed and compensated?

DontPutBeerInHisEar Sat 14-Jul-12 22:50:30

There are a mass of Very Important Questions on here already relating to SEN and statements; however in terms of changes to family courts:

OFSTED has identified that many delays to adoptions are due to repeat or late assessments of parents and other family members during proceedings, the length of which often had a “measurable and adverse” impact on timely adoptions (one assumes equally traumatic for children returning to their birth parents from foster care after such delays).

•Where LA’s are known to have been underperforming and are up against further cuts, together with shockwaves from Family Court Judges speaking out and evidence based research about the inconsistencies of expert witnesses in the current system; how can you be sure at this stage that speeding up the adoption timescales in the early part of 2013 is the right thing?
•What hope and assurances are you able to give children and families have who are not happy with the way their case is being/has been handled in the processes leading to a placement order in terms of truly independent support and scrutiny?
•And lastly, what recompense is there for children who have suffered under a poorly performing LA and been removed unnecessarily from a loving birth family?

If you are not able to answer these questions during this session, please could you indicate when or how answers might be forthcoming? Is it possible to arrange a separate session to cover questions regarding changes to the family courts?

Thank you for time.

r3dh3d Sat 14-Jul-12 22:55:38

OK, first 5 questions off the top of my head...

The Green Paper contained an impressive number of good intentions, but left the tricky job of working out how to implement them to the pathfinders. Indications are that the pathfinders are initially overwhelmed by the size of this task, and are picking the low-lying fruit, by starting with the easy issues or by adapting existing processes (and so enshrining some of the existing practices which the Green Paper was designed to change). I can only go by what little I have read so far, so would be grateful if the Minister could clarify:

1) how are you ensuring that Health is participating in the pathfinder programme? My impression is that they aren't engaged anywhere near as much as Education or Social Care, and it seems to be impacting outcome already. Many of my questions are around the Health part of the new system. The hardest logistical challenge of the EHCP is going to be getting the combined assessment process to be shorter than the current educational statementing process, and Health (who can't reliably get an urgent letter out in less than 6 months, because Admin staff are not "frontline" and so always the first to be cut) will be the bottleneck. If it takes them months to send a routine letter asking for an urgent(!) blood test, it will take years to extract letters from a raft of experts legally committing their departments to budget spending until the child in question is 25. You can't find a way to fix this without Health's active involvement in the pathfinder trials and until this is fixed you can't frame legislation.

2) Giving families control of their combined budgets (ie Education and Health as well as Social Care) could be the most transformative part of the Green Paper: so many legal battles would be unecessary if parents could simply vote with their feet rather than be stuck with a non-performing provider, and of course it puts tremendous pressure on LAs and providers to come up with a clear Local Offer which meets the child's needs. It could also give state schools the funds to offer the sorts of combined in-house services that at present mean we lose so many pupils to the private sector. However, the path of least resistance for the pathfinder testing is to integrate the existing Direct Payments scheme for Social Care into the new assessment framework, and call it a "personal budget" without ever getting to the meat of the issue. Which pathfinders are genuinely testing giving full budget control to families, across all services? What are their findings?

2.1) Under the new National Funding Formula, precisely which parts of a child's education funding could be under parental control? As I understand it, there will be a generic SEN budget per head, and a per-pupil top-up, and presumably then any funds over and above this named in the EHCP. Presumably the point of the NFF is that this is govt funding rather than LA funding so only the DoE can tell us which parts of this the parents will have control of, and it is the department who sets the rules on usage. What restrictions will there be on how we can use it? Where a child's needs fluctuate, can funds from Health be temporarily spent on Care, for instance?

2.2) Given that some of these children have quite complex Health needs, how do you propose to determine which health costs are covered by the delegated budget and which are not? For instance, if a child has Physio in their EHCP to help them hold a pen, and then breaks their arm requiring additional physio, does it come out of the EHCP or are they allowed to access standard NHS services via their GP? Also, if a need is listed in the EHCP, is the child still eligible for NHS support once the EHCP funding has run out?

3) given that a child's Health or Care needs will often increase quite rapidly over time, the process of amending an EHCP plan must be easier and quicker than the current Statementing process (it's generally acknowledged that you really have to get a Statement right first time because it can be incredibly hard to change one afterwards: although Statements are "reviewed" annually, if this review shows up a genuine change in need parents have another almighty battle on their hands). But though the Green Paper mentions the possibility of review, in practice both it and the pathfinder reports I have seen focus pretty exclusively on initial assessment. Which pathfinders are actively trialling the amendment process? Are they trialling amendment of the whole EHCP or just focussing on one service?

4) at present, therapy which is educationally necessary is included in a child's Statement and so afforded the same legal protection as the rest of their education. A large % of tribunal cases at present are related to the educational provision of therapy, so if the EHCP is to reduce tribunal costs the pathfinders need to tackle this issue head-on. I have heard that early pathfinder feedback says EHCPs include therapy but are removing legal protection for it, even where it is educationally necessary. Is this in line with Ministerial thinking or in conflict with it? Will educationally necessary therapy have the same, or better, protection under the law you are currently drafting? Or will this protection be lost?

5) Local Authorities are regularly lose cases in Tribunal for issuing "bad" statements: ones that are vague and unquantified, and where provision in part 4 doesn't meet the need in part 2. Do you agree the new law should set similarly high standards for the EHCP, and that the Local Offer and the provision statements from providers should be held to this standard too? In other words, will your law ensure the Local Offer is clear and practical and quantified and verifiable? If Local Authorities are allowed to write their Local Offers using the same vague, legally evasive wording they attempt to use in their Statements, the aim of building trust in a more transparent system will become impossible.

Leithlurker Sun 15-Jul-12 05:56:00

I am a disabled activist and have been for more than 20 years. I am really pleased to see such a high level of knowledge and some very good and extremely pertinent questions from Mners.

I have two things that I want to raise not just with Sarah but with other Mners as rightly I think people are coming from a personal stand point or looking for feed back on situations that they have experienced. Myself I want to ask more policy and intention themed stuff.

1) Local authorities up and down the land are increasingly using private care agencies as well as third sector providers. This is mainly because it is cheaper. However one of the first things to suffer for adults with care needs is their choice of provider, and the quality of care. The choice issue is about people liking and trusting those that provide the hands on care. This relationship is fundamental, Sarah I ask you in all honesty how you would feel about 5- 6 different people coming each week to feed and dress you? The choice is also about the times that people come, the things that they do i that time slot, the work load of the person doing the care. This is all down to budgets as every action takes time, and every second is being paid for. You see where this is going? So what becomes important tis time not the level of interaction or the the disabled person. Very often I have heard people talk about feeling like pieces of meat being manhandled from bed to chair, having a sandwich thrown at them and told that someone will be in later. Care plans are routinely ignored if read at all, and staff are sometimes unable to deal with things like putting the washing machine on as they do not know the make or model and they do not have the time to study the controls. So finally my question on this part is:

The provision of care at home services is dependent on money, however as I have pointed out the money is allocated by time, how are YOU going to resource the time needed so that people can have dignity and confidence in the care the receive? How will you prevent the rush to the lowest level of care bing provided by those who bid the least for home care contracts. Do not even stat talking about Standards or commissions, the money is all down to you and it is the MONEY that allows the best practice it is the lack of money that people day in and day out at the moment.

2: Disabled activists have been calling for personal care budgets for years so yes we are pleased to see the introduction, we have also called for mainstreaming, person centred planning, and inclusion. Unfortunately when we have been successful in having these ideas taken up by local and central government we have often found our words twisted and bent so far from what we intended as to be the opposite of what we wanted. An example would be in person centred planning. This has been taken up by many agencies but instead of posing the question what does Miss Blogs want to achieve and how can it be delivered and who will do the delivering. We somehow end up talking about resources and budgets. So Miss Bloggs wants to go to college 3 days a week, but either the social budget cannot afford this mainly because the staff time would be too costly or simple things like transport, will not be funded. It is not a health issue so no money there. So you see what we are saying, again this comes back to nuts and bolts getting dressed washed etc, but then left as the Money but more importantly the planning is done to suit the Money and not the individual. One other quick example would be the way that the words of disabled people are being turned against them in terms of work. No disabled person has ever said "I would prefer not to work" Given the option we would all work, the truth is Sarah most disabled people cannot conform to a rigid time scale or a rigid set of rules, or need significant help and support. However this government like the last 3 have made it sound like a legion of disabled people are unwilling to come off benefits when in fact this government has like precious done very little to change the working culture that would do more than anything else to boost employment. So my second point is this:

Sarah you have closed the ILF fund, you are replacing DLA with pip, you are handing over some benefits at the moment managed by the dwp to local authorities but without ring fencing them, the change to HB especially the 2nd bedroom rule will mean very real hardship for disabled people who need overnight care. Given all this why on earth should disabled people have any confidence in this policy or any other policy that this government is putting forward, it would seem that your interest in disabled people extends to reducing their cost and no more.

CouthyMow Sun 15-Jul-12 07:23:37

I am still pondering my questions relating to the Health and Social Care side if this, I will be back later with those.

The first one that pops into my head is about a personal situation. If you are given a budget for Health care, would that be Nationally set, or would it take into account your disability or combination of disabilities, and would it take into account variations in local provision?

The reason I ask is because I have uncontrolled epilepsy, and ideally need to see a Neurologist every 12-26 weeks, 26 at most. However - my PCT does not have a Neuro AT ALL. In order to see a Neurologist, I have to travel 60 miles each way on public transport. Currently, as I am not working, I get my travel costs reimbursed. Would the travel costs also have to come out of the personal budget, or would that be separate to the Health needs budget, or would I get an additional amount as the service I need to use is not provided locally?

Also, if you have a child with complex health issues, SEN requiring quite a bit of support just to access the curriculum AND you have a need for additional Care to be provided, in as much as respite care, would the budget given actually cover the payments for everything? My DD currently sees a cardiac consultant, an ENT consultant, a child development paediatrician, OT, physio, Audiology Consultant, CAHMS, a Paed Neurologist (again, 120 mile round trip), and she is also due to see the geneticist again soon, she has over 3 hours a week help in school (despite NOT being able to get a statement), and it is being looked at giving me some respite care due to the difficulties faced by my family, with having a Lone Parent who is disabled looking after 4 DC, two of whom also have disabilities.

If the budget offered wasn't enough to cover all this, who would get to choose what was most important to spend the money on? And would I be able to, say, spend Health money on getting her additional support at school if there was no SA+ any more and she stopped getting the 3 hours a week that she currently gets?

charlieandlola Sun 15-Jul-12 09:05:27

Many of the surviving special needs schools are in appalling states of disrepair. One in my area is made up entirely of leaking 30 year old portakabins and often closes during periods of wet weather as the classrooms are soaking. The DofE just turned down their bid for a rebuild.
why is this acceptable ?

Triggles Sun 15-Jul-12 09:19:42

I would also like to see LA's be held accountable for time wasting through tribunal. Our 5yo DS2 has SNs and is struggling to cope in a MS setting, even though he has fulltime 1:1 support. We requested at his annual review that he be placed (as of beginning of next school year) at a local specialised school that has indicated that they are able to meet his needs. DS2's paediatrician, OT, TA, teacher, senco, headteacher, and us (parents) also feel he would do much better at the special school. The LA looked over the annual review and refused the special school. Part of their criteria was based on his educational psych report from approximately a year previous.

We then appealed and were told by the LA that they wouldn't even consider the special school until he had a more current ed psych report. So basically, they had no problem refusing the special school on the year old ed psych report (as they didn't ask for a new one at that point), but two weeks later when we appealed suddenly they need a more current report. How does that make sense?? They won't organise a new assessment from the ed psych until autumn, and tribunal isn't until December. So even though this was all requested in March, they've managed to put this whole thing off until almost Christmas, fighting to keep him in mainstream when everyone that works with him has indicated he would be better out of mainstream and in the special school. Which means DS2 struggles in mainstream for most likely another full school year. It's cruel and it's unfair to him. It wastes time he could be learning in a more appropriate setting, it makes him struggle unnecessarily for another year, creates more stress for us, and costs the LA extra money that doesn't need to be spent in tribunal. It's just more delays for no good reason....

This kind of nonsense wastes money that could be better spent on provisions and support, rather than making parents fight constantly for everything.

And part of this is also the concern about "inclusion"... there comes a point where inclusion is just a word.. they claim inclusion with DS2, however, he is constantly being taken out of the classroom and away from the other children due to his needs...and if he was unfortunate enough to go to the attached junior school, he would be separated from the other children even more (we've met with them to see how his situation would be handled).. how is that inclusion??

CouthyMow Sun 15-Jul-12 09:34:44

Charlie - I wonder if we are fairly near each other? The turning down for a rebuild (that was already agreed under previous Government) has severely hampered them in their bid to expand to offer more places for DC's with Autism...

kaz110 Sun 15-Jul-12 09:37:25

Hi Sarah, I have 4 questions:

1) Why are there no consequences for LEAs who issue statements that are unlawful (in our case no provision specified and quantified)? Our LEA usually only back down the day before the tribunal in cases where parents appealed.

2) What kind of compensation is available for children who suffered due to provision that did not meet there needs while the tribunal case was pending (keeping in mind that it can be often 7-8 months until the tribunal meets - this is an unacceptable long time for a child to be left with totally inadequate provision).

3) How is the current system fair for parents who are not able (for whatever reason) to take on LEA?

4) Will I be able to purchase ABA provision for my severely autistic child once the personal budgets kick in?

thank you

CouthyMow Sun 15-Jul-12 09:38:31

Inclusion is a good idea in theory, and works well with some DC, but IMO, it should also be noted that some DC's have needs that are just too specific and specialised to be managed effectively in Mainstream school. In a specialised placement, they would receive an education that is tailored for their needs, and would ultimately not be struggling and falling further and further behind.

The lack of specialised placements in some areas, with special schools being shut down in the name of 'inclusion' but really for budgetary reasons, is causing many DC's to leave school illiterate and innumerate.

HaitchJay Sun 15-Jul-12 10:08:04

Special schools here have been requesting rebuild/moves and out of 3 one was granted a partial move.
All 3 are supposed to take 60ish and are roughly 25% over.
All in buildings adapted but unsuitable but not getting finding to improve( although the majority of MS ones are in a similar position but it's easier to adapt for kids without wheelchairs/sticks etc).

Not a question just comparing!

Leithlurker Sun 15-Jul-12 10:12:27

Couthy: I am not about to start disagreeing with you indeed not much to disagree with. BUT I would suggest that in order to underline special needs schools and so both raise the profile and make clear the criteria to be applied to pupils who are put forward to attend them, and the expectations of the type and quality of the education provided. A presumption should be that a place in any mainstream school of should as of right be the default setting for education authorities.

There will be a need as there always has been and always will be a need for special schools, however your very point about students leaving such places functionally illiterate is an indication that special schools have not had an identifiable set of criteria the same as mainstream.

I went to a special school in the 60's -70's most of those I left with were functionally illiterate consigned to the dole or sheltered workshops, or day centres. That choice no longer exist and in some respects thank god. But to give Children with sever LD or physical disabilities the oppertunity to have some semblance of an independent life they need education not movement and dance mixed with social skills.

CouthyMow Sun 15-Jul-12 10:18:47

Oh, no, Leith - my local SEN school offers normal GCSE's for ANY DC that would be capable of acheiving ANY grade! I suspect by your comments that this isn't necessarily true of other SEN schools. They didn't offer that option when my Ex-P attended there from 1986 until 1991, though they DID offer very good vocational training and apprenticeships even then, that gave my Ex-P the opportunity to gain NVQ lvl 2 qualifications in Catering, which he still works in now at 37.

TBH, I'm shocked that not all SEN schools offer GCSE's in traditional subjects...

CouthyMow Sun 15-Jul-12 10:22:35

I have a friend whose DD is in Y9 there, going into Y10. She has Aspergers, and is there because she cannot cope with the large class sizes in MS, amongst other things. She is sitting GCSE's like geography, History, Statistics and more.

If my DD had got a place there then she may not be struggling as much educationally.

I don't believe that MS is the right placement for my DD, neither does her MS Secondary, yet we are unable to get her a statement that will enable her to get entry.

NotOnUrNelly Sun 15-Jul-12 10:27:20

Thanks RowanMumsnet - and thanks for getting her in the first place - it is a really valuable opportunity for us (though sadly I probably won't be joining you due to a prior commitment)

AgnesDiPesto Sun 15-Jul-12 11:48:32

1. I have heard that personal budgets may well be notional budgets and actually parents will not get control at all. Will parents be able to insist on direct payments e.g. for speech therapy, education. There is no way I would ever purchase the provision offered to my son - speech therapists with no autism expertise and autism outreach support who saw their job as to come and collect information to help the SEN officer at Tribunal rather than design any programmes for my son. Even when we and nursery told the SEN officer for a year my son was learning nothing they continued to pour in untrained 1:1, SALT and outreach rather than consider funding something else. I would have used that money for ABA and private SALT and achieved 1000% more in terms of outcomes. Will parents be allowed to do this? To vote not to send their child to nursery or school full-time but educate partly or wholly out of school?

2. I heard you on the Select Committee and I completely agree that the vast majority of parents could spend the money better and assess the quality of provision better than LAs. There should be support for parents who can't and services need some accreditation to guard against cowboys, but I would have turned the outreach teacher away on her second visit when she decided all my severely autistic son needed to succeed in nursery was a white pop up tent. There are already many cowboys working in public services. LAs have not held their own employees to account, and while there are many excellent professionals working in SEN there are very many who work there because they can hide their poor practice and laziness behind the low expectations of the child they work with. Had I not done ABA I would now be under the impression my son had severe autism, SLD and he would probably be non verbal. Whereas now he is speaking at 3-4 keywords, still quite severely autistic but clearly extremely bright.

3. Will therapies which are educational e.g. SALT still have the same status? I have heard rumours that these will in effect be taken off what is the current Part 3 and enforceable against the LA - and be put into the health section which will not be enforceable. Will everything on the plan be enforceable against the LA?

4. Again I have heard that the 19-25 extension may not be quite what it seems, that there will be no absolute right to education until 25 but the Plan will stay in place only for those deemed to require education to 25 - those who stop full-time education will lose the Plan even if they still have health and social care needs - is this true? Will parents still be having to fight to show their child will benefit from education post 19?

5. I would absolutely support the idea of sanctions for LAs. Our LA ignored their own EP report that recommended ABA or specialist nursery at age 2.10. They ignored the health advice because 'they are not allowed to give views on education', they had no written advice supporting mainstream nursery at all, yet insisted my son was placed there. Needless to say it took until my son was 4, and two appeals (one which went to a hearing) to get the provision their own EP had recommended at 2.10 put in place. The sheer abuse of the system that went on by the LA - they put pressure on both nursery and SALT to change their evidence and got an autism teacher to lie at tribunal (and yes I have proof) - and labelled us liars, bullies and obstructive. I am a qualified Solicitor I thought I had seen every tactic, but never had I seen the sheer torrent of unpleasantness directed as us as parents for daring to ask for more than the LA wanted to pay. It pushed me and my husband to the point of breakdown. Our child was completely forgotten in the attempt to use any means to discredit us and save money. Our other children barely saw us as we were buried under paperwork for a year. Yet the LA cannot lose. They still saved themselves a year of ABA funding. No sanctions for making our lives hell. Then 3 weeks after tribunal and again 12 months later at annual review they tried to 'reassess', ignore the EP again, and take everything we won away. More legal fees, more JR threats to make them follow the law and COP. I still feel sick everyday when the post arrives, even now nearly 2 years on, my first thought is will there be something horrible from the LA in the post, will they take what my son needs away, and a sense of relief when there is no envelope from them.

I do not know how you change this culture. I cannot imagine turning up at hospital with a child with a tumour and being treated as a burden, a nuisance, as a greedy money grabbing parent, labelled difficult and obstructive for making demands on services. This is my experience of LA. How can people who have these disgusting attitudes to disabled children and their families become their 'champions'?

6. The Government did pass a law in Sept 2011 that said children out of school should get education that was 'fulltime' education where that was appropriate for the child. Unfortunately Michael Gove has just withdrawn the circular that defined full-time education (which was about 23-25 hours per week) - and said there will now be no government direction as to the number of hours per week as that will be too restrictive for free schools and academies who want to set their own curriculum. The fall out is of course that disabled children now have nothing to refer to when arguing the support should not be 5 hours, but 25.

sickofsocalledexperts Sun 15-Jul-12 13:20:24

I was really impressed with the recent announcement by Sarah Teather of a 'gold standard' scholarship scheme for SEN support staff in mainstream schools. Too often in the past the LSA job has been filled by people with literally no idea about SEN, yet the LSA can be the most crucial person in an Special Needs kid's entire educational experience. I was also pleased to see that one of the courses you are recommending for autistic kids is based on ABA (behavioural principles).

Since so often it's not so much the autism as the anti-social behaviours which will lead to exclusion for autistic boys like my own, will you look at even more training in ABA for SEN staff? It has been the making of my boy.

Peachy Sun 15-Jul-12 13:58:18

Sickofsocalled- I agree but I am sad how it has been limited; I had a place on a TA course but despite the best efforts of the college we could not sort funding due to my degree. As we many of us know, Carer's Allowance won't cover much! Most people I know with autistic kid would welcome people like me who have high level training in Autism working with their child, and TA hours would suit my caring role- but no, not to be.

Couthy- we have here a set up where the Bases take children who have moderate to mild SN (ours specialises in ASD) and SNUs that offer life skills based education but not GCSEs: ds1 has been fortunate to obtain one of a whole 2 places in the County at the ASD Base but the staff there told us DS3 was too severe- but he is predicted level 5 in maths, so will miss out. The LEAs suggestion was to send him into mainstream without any help at all- even though he is in a 12 person specialist Primary base after failing in mainstream primary. Cheers LEA! Er- no.

Peachy Sun 15-Jul-12 14:00:43

(Oh and we're devolved Wales but the school where the Base is has also had rebuild funding withdrawn, there are buckets in the classrooms to collect the water from the leaks).

Oh and also WRT to mainstream / SNU , the man from our LEA told me that he felt only children in SNU placements should get a statement and funding.

LineRunner Sun 15-Jul-12 15:13:50


I was going to ask you some hard questions but to be honest the wonderful MMers above have asked them all. I agree with Don'tPutBeerInHisEar that it's great how it's a Lib Dem minister who has to find a way though the policy mess promulgated by the Conservatives - good on you for caring anyway.

Will you accept my best wishes and good luck in your endeavours. I hope you find plenty of food for though on this MN webchat and thanks for doing it. And try to smile more on QuestionTime. smile

LineRunner x

violetsdiary Sun 15-Jul-12 15:57:42

Dear Sarah Tether I would like to express my concern at these reforms and would like to ask a couple of questions.
1. I have 2 children with SEN. both of them are visually impaired and one is also on the autism spectrum. Neither of my children have statements.
2. The premise of a statement is that you have to be able to demonstrate that your child is behind. I don't want my children to get behind, but we are reliant on the individual will of schools, teachers and parents to try to ensure this doesn't happen. There is no recognition with a statement that a child such as those with autism might be able to perform in a classroom but cannot manage playtimes, social situations, sharing, sensory stimulation etc.
3. The proposed reforms will not change this. I suspect the process for getting a joint assessment of need will be as difficult, if not more so than getting a statement and will even more focused on the need to prove your child is already failing.
4. For those, like my children, there is no indication of what help will be available, in fact you are proposing to do away with the distinction between school action and school action plus, so where will the requirement be for schools to provide support to our children to prevent them from 'failing'?
5. Where will the incentives be for schools to accept children like mine, who do require extra resources, but are unlikely to get a joint assessment / care plan?
6. How will you ensure that schools do not refuse to take children with SEN who will require extra resources to ensure they reach their potential?
7. If you don't have systems such as school action and school action plus how will we be able to monitor whether our children's access and support needs are being met?

I have many many more questions and concerns, but it seems to me that many of these issues have simply not been thought about and considered and I would really not wish to see these reforms rushed through without considering how these issues will be addressed.

Dawn13 Sun 15-Jul-12 19:49:20

As libraries are so important to all children, not simply for their formal education, but also their general all round education, and as libraries contribute directly to the Reading for pleasure agenda the Government says it supports, why are school libraries not statutory yet? Investing support in school libraries is laying foundations to enable children to love reading as they see it is valued by those adults who are there to help them learn.

deb has highlighted my position exactly different disabilities. Every child matters, every disabled child matters, but not mine and children in a similar position. As for libraries our local one has now started to charge HE families for use of educational resources. We are already targeted enough financially and still they add to our issues.

Exceptional Sun 15-Jul-12 21:16:29

My grand daughter's appeal for a place at the nearest Primary School was refused, despite the fact that all other children in the road where she lives including the 2012 intake, attend.
The school offered was 3rd choice, and we have no issue with the school, but after the application date, her younger brother (now 20 months) was diagnosed with a very rare congential condition which is terminal, and for which there is no treatment other than palliative care, he is very unlikely to live beyond the age of 3.
Our appeal stated this, and the fact that as his condition is so fragile and he can change in a few minutes, my daughter will need to rely on neighbours to transport her daughter to and from school at very short notice.
The route to the offered school is along a main arterial route, which according to the local area transport review, carries some 20-30,000 vehicles per day, and due to the younger child's condition breathing in the fumes would seriously compromise his health. In addition one of the main characteristics of his condition is an extremly heightened startle response, and the traffic noise could cause seizures.
We submitted additional information to the appeal panel in advance, giving details of his condition Tay-Sachs Disease, together with photograaphs of the volume of traffic, details of the level of traffic and medical letters of support, there are currently 15 agencies involved with his care, plus the children's hospital and hospice.
Since the appeal, his condition has deteriorated, he is now fed via nasal gastric tube, which will shortly have a pump fited, together with suctioning equipment and oxygen to aid his breathing.
My daughter's MP and local Councillors are talking with the LA, we fully understand the limit on class sizes (although we know the authority have this year made mistakes where there are more than 30 in a reception class (apparently it's okay if they make the mistake), but we have been told that no Primary appeals for Birmingham were upheld, and we never had any chance of our appeal being upheld. Surely there must be exceptions to every rule, and people's circumstances change. I fear that my grand daughter will have to be kept off school, if her younger brother is too ill to take outside. Do you have any advice?

ArthurPewty Sun 15-Jul-12 21:28:56

Exceptional: i saw your story on the tv the other morning. You don't live very far from me, and you want your daughter in the very school my kids go to.

Birmingham are absolutely DIRE, arent they? Sigh.

ArthurPewty Sun 15-Jul-12 21:29:35

*granddaughter, sorry

Please be careful about 'mainstreaming'. 'Mainstreaming' and 'Inclusion' means total exclusion for my son. He needs a very specialist environment if he is to have any freedom at all. Also re GCSEs - they would be totally irrelevant for my son. Please don't forget the children who cannot access a typical academic curriculum and write them off. His special school is great because it provides an environment suitable for him - it allows him to practice independence and it provides a curriculum suitable for him.

Our school has also had rebuild problem sas well. The unit attached to the school (on a mainstream site) was rebuilt (and is lovely). But the main school site has had the funding for a rebuild withdrawn. The buildings are crumbling. Some of the children with PMLD's have to be in long wheelchairs and they can't even get around the corners of the corridors very easily. It's really not good - and it also means they can never get an outstanding Ofsted because each inspection the site is found not fit for purpose hmm. The other special school has had a rebuild by moving to a mainstream site (no thank you - I would be very worried by that).

appropriatelyemployed Sun 15-Jul-12 22:15:29

I whole-heartedly applaud what Agnes has said.

My experience was very similar. I too am a lawyer. I too was 'branded' and vilified for arguing for better provision for my son who has an ASD.

I too know what it feels like to dread the post and know that you cannot trust the very professionals who are supposed to help your child because they are actually out to save money for the LA. This is specifically true of SALT departments who deliver on block contracts for LAs and act as if they are employed by them. Professional ethics and confidentiality go out the window and you would not believe what goes on unless you have experienced the disgraceful tactics LAs pursue.

What are you going to do about that?

Also, what are you going to do about your pathfinder authorities who take public money and are listed as schedule authorities on the SEN Pilot Order but who have absolutely no intention of following the legal obligations of this Order and refuse to even accept requests from parents?

JugglingWithTangentialOranges Sun 15-Jul-12 22:39:14

I've always worked with young children and their families as an early years practitioner (nursery teacher and related roles) and I think the resourcing of early years provision is crucial to improving the lives of children and their families. I was interested to see programmes recently highlighting approaches taken in Scandinavia - where early years education and care seems much more valued and better resourced. I believe too that it is such an investment for the country both now and in the future, and find it frustrating and disappointing to see existing services cut, where I feel they should be built upon.

Can you convince me that this government believes in the value of early years provision - which also benefits women and families, and wider society ?

FreshNewName Sun 15-Jul-12 23:07:30

I also have a question about children with chronic illnesses.

There is currently no statutory duty on schools to help with children's medical needs. Is this likely to change with the new legislation? Will the non-educational provision in a statement be enforceable?

I have a child with type 1 diabetes. It is a much misunderstood condition; a very hidden disability. It is unpreventable, and rising at an alarming rate in preschool age children. It needs managing 24 hours a day.

My daughter's school realised just how much support she would need during the early years and applied for a statement for her. Her condition is very unpredictable and will impact on her future health, her immediate safety ,and her ability to learn if not properly managed (both low and high blood glucose levels induce adverse cognitive effects). All the medical and educational professionals working with her agree that she needs full-time support at this point in her development.

So far the LA are refusing to help, because her needs are only medical and not educational (totally failing to grasp the link between the two). Without support she will be unable to attend school. How can this be right?

alison222 Sun 15-Jul-12 23:18:41

In theory it would be nice to have a joined up system.
I am rather sceptical that it can work in practice. I worry about having a budget and finding that health issues eat it all up and none is left for education - or vice versa if not much is allocated to us as there is so little money to go around and more and more children being diagnosed with Special Needs.
How do you propose to ensure that this sort of thing does not happen?
What help will be available for people to help with budgeting?
How will parents know how to allocate it?
What guidance will there be and will services be available? or will - like now we just get put on a waiting list - and then like with other council budgets - find that as you didn't use it all the way you said you would - it gets cut the following year so that the help your child should be entitled to gets diminished as time goes on.
Will the budget go up in line with the cost of the services provided and not inflation - or some other measure so that children get less and less benefit as they get older? How will the government ensure that this happens and that cost increases in provision do not cut the services to the people that they are helping as a result?
I second a lot of the earlier questions about legal enforcability and how they will interact with academies.
Also with respect to the criteria for obtaining and EPCH plan as it seems that they will be even tighter that for the current statements if I have understood correctly, how can this be right? How will parents be able to ensure that their child gets help then if they just fall short of the criteria but would have previously met it? Will more money be devolved to schools to help - or will schools be expected to make their current funds stretch ever thinner?

HotheadPaisan Mon 16-Jul-12 07:55:38

Accontability and quick and effective routes of assessment and redress are key, hope these issues are addressed.

flashshirt Mon 16-Jul-12 08:14:43

Good Morning Minister.
As one of a number of parent representatives from Medway Parents and Carers Forum working on the SE7 Pathfinder, we have been working very hard with professionals in health, social care and education. It should make things much better all round. It has meant a lot of intense work for everyone and generally we are pleased at how much we have accomplished so far. There are a few concerns however, mainly around the very short time allocated to get a major change like this up and running. Are you sure that the partnerships have been given enough time to prepare and pilot any new systems they develop and what happens if some of the pilots don't work or are not suitable.
You will also need to consider accountability. What recourse have parents got if a professional organisation decides not to stick to the single assessment process and who will be responsible ?

StarlightWithAsteroid Mon 16-Jul-12 09:42:09

Hello Sarah,

I think some of the ideas in the green paper are great, particularly surrounding parental choice and control.

However, I have some concerns around the regulation and monitoring of provision that parents might access. How will this be done? Like Agnes I withdrew my child with ASD from most of what the LA had to offer because it appeared to be lip service, lacking in evidence base or tangible outcomes and extremely poor quality. However, we cannot deny that there are cowboys out there that will prey on parents vulnerability. Presumably these changes are in order to improve outcomes for children as well as efficiency and because it has been noted that the LA provision model provides neither.

Given this, how are you going to ensure that LAs have the skills required to monitor provision outside of themselves? And how are you going to ensure that LA assessment of need and therefore funding is fair and not a continuation of the current system whereby each budget-holder sees their main job as delaying funding for as long as possible in order to push the costs into the next budget up the line. I.e. NHS into early years, early years into education, education into social care. Proper Early intervention has been proven to save significant amounts of money.

Finally, given that the Green Paper really has afforded the opportunity to get so many frustrated parents onside with your party, why not just do it properly and allow the consultation pathfinder process to run, rather than rush through the paper and leave people thinking that the pathfinder was nothing more than lip service to a policy you had already decided on?

Thank you

StarlightWithAsteroid Mon 16-Jul-12 09:43:47

Dear Minister,

I appreciate there is a lot to read but if you have to choose a select few to respond to, PLEASE respond to Agnes' post.

Many thanks.

But what do you do when you don't withdraw your child from school and the child refuses to go for issues the school won't accept and I'm talking special school. Is it right he doesn't fit anywhere for the last 3 years and thats after forcing him in for years previous!!

StarlightWithAsteroid Mon 16-Jul-12 09:59:36

Oh, and please can you define both physical inclusion and educational inclusion.

Many children with developmental disabilities are being physically included 'I.e. sitting on carpet, lining up, eating snacks' alongside other children giving the illusion of being included, but actually they just coping the other children, or through repeating the routine. Many of these children can sit do these tasks but have no idea that they are supposed to listen to the teacher whilst on the carpet, or apply what he/she has said.

HotheadPaisan Mon 16-Jul-12 10:08:43

Another key issue is flexibility and swiftness of response. My LA stuck to the timeframes almost perfectly but there were times when the reports were in and things could have been brought forward. 6 months+ to assess and implement support is too long and I really feel for those for whom it takes longer.

Also AEN and SEN funding for schools for SA and SA+ (whatever these categories become) is not ringfenced, this is utterly wrong.

DebJay Mon 16-Jul-12 10:11:44

Someone on twitter has asked me to pose the following question to Sarah:

How is the government going to ensure quality in SEN provision? There is no indication as yet.


NotOnUrNelly Mon 16-Jul-12 10:16:03

sorry to be dopey, but will the "chat" with Sarah Teather take place here or in the "chat" topic - ie how do you find it /join the discussion?

StarlightWithAsteroid Mon 16-Jul-12 10:16:05

When evaluating/monitoring impact and budget implications are you going to enforce Local Authority reporting on legal costs with regards to SEN?

Vagaceratops Mon 16-Jul-12 10:18:46

Marking my place - so many good questions!

HotheadPaisan Mon 16-Jul-12 10:21:07

Not - just hang out here, she should be here in a minute.

r3dh3d Mon 16-Jul-12 10:21:24

Has the department calculated how much money these reforms will save in the first year of implementation? If not, why not, and if so, how much is it?

NotOnUrNelly Mon 16-Jul-12 10:25:05

Thanks Hothead - I'm "supposed" to be working so will be dipping in and out - but looking forward to some interesting discussion....

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 16-Jul-12 10:27:31

Pleased to say Sarah is here at Mumsnet Towers now and ready to get started on your questions in a few minutes

Leithlurker Mon 16-Jul-12 10:27:50

Typicle I am too ill to go to my meeting, oh well theire loss Sarahs gain!

silverfrog Mon 16-Jul-12 10:28:26

another one who agrees wholeheartedly with Agnes' post.

I too got the 'well, you'll never get that' response, and plenty of comments about how I was 'chasing gold standard provision' hmm hmm when all I wanted was a place where my dd could actually learn and fulfil her potential (whatever that may be, and wherever she ends up)

I would like to ask how and why it is that some (independent) SN school provision get LEA 'approval', and others don't?

I live in Surrey (not actually by our choice, btw - we moved for statementing reasons - another farce that needs sorting out, as we are unable ot live in the perfectly good house we own in Kent, as we would not get the same provision for our dd if we did), and dd was put into an 'approved' independent placement, paid for by the LA. it was hopeless for her, and we had a ridiculous fight to get her into a placement (ABA based) which would work for her.

the LA were happy to keep paying out fees which, if she had progressed into the main school, were about £6k less than her current placement. a lot of money, yes, but in reality the difference between dd being at that school, where she learned absolutely nothing in more than a year, and the school did not know what she was even capable of (ie a total waste of £44k), and at her current placement, where she is learning, progressing at astonishing speed, can now read and write (and type) and has a chance of (at the least) a semi-independent life - and all this for £6k more (yes, a lot of money, but a hell of a lot less than the cost of 24/7 placement once she is out of school age if she does not learn independent skills now)

why is it that LA's are so anti-ABA? we got approval for an out of county, independent placement so easily - as long as the placement was a Teacch based one (at £44k) - the LA were falling over themselves to place dd at one of 4 different independent schools. none of which would have suited dd, but they were 'approved'. whereas ABA is not to be mentioned, under any circumstances, and in many cases other services (such as SALT and portage and OT) are withdrawn if you dare startup a programme, as they are deemed 'incompatible' - what rot.

we have so far moved house 3 times (3x removals costs, plus 4 years of paying rent needlessly) funded an ABA programme at home, and self-funded an ABA school placement while we took the LA to Tribunal to get them to fund the school placement. we now live in a town we would never have considered, and have much higher housing costs, because of all this, and are unable to move closer to dd's school (16 miles away) as it is over the county border - so higher fuel costs as well. this has all cost us (conservative estimate) in the region of £125-150k. Easily. Lucky us (hmm) to have been able to afford it - but all in the name of trying to get dd into a school where she is able to learn. how long will this farce continue?

HotheadPaisan Mon 16-Jul-12 10:28:43

Also Sarah, who have you been working with on these proposals? I saw CDC and the good survey the released I linked to earlier. Are you talking to IPSEA?

SarahTeatherMP Mon 16-Jul-12 10:30:40

Good morning everyone,

Thanks so much for taking the time to post on here across the weekend. Really grateful to you all for telling me about your experience in the current system.

What always horrifies me when I hear parent's stories is just how hard they have had to fight to get their child's needs recognised. This is exactly what we are trying to fix. It will take time to get the system right, and sadly no system will ever be perfect, but there is so much more that could be done by getting people to work together more effectively, and by getting professionals to listen more to parents and young people themselves.

I can see there are a few obvious themes coming out in your posts so I will try and group the questions together. I won't be able to respond to everyone individually but hopefully I will be able to pick up the main questions.


SarahTeatherMP Mon 16-Jul-12 10:37:55

Tania Tirraoro asked a question which was picked up by a few of you:
I would like to ask: What is your objection to listening to (as opposed to hearing) all those expert voices who are telling you that any draft bill should be delayed until the New Year?

The most important thing I should stress is that what we will be publishing in September is just a draft bill - it is for discussion, not for debate in Parliament. We won't be publishing the real bill until the Spring next year. The draft bill is an opportunity for parents and charities who are expert in this area to look at our ideas and tell us what they think. The education select committee in Parliament will also run a kind of inquiry on the draft proposals. It is one of the many stages we are using to test out people's views and make sure we have the detail right.

It is also important to remember that this is the half way point in the reform process. We began in September 2010, asking people's views on about what should change, then we published a green paper in the spring last year, more detailed proposals a few months ago, the draft bill in September and the real bill next year. We will also have lots of time in Parliament to debate the bill. It isn't being rushed through. It will run over two Parliamentary sessions. And some of the legislation will need to be done in what is called secondary legislation at a later stage.

Throughout this process the pathfinders will be testing things out and we wil be getting formal reports. The pathfinders of course are not just testing out the proposals for the legislation. much more importantly, they are about changing culture. You can't legislate to make people listen - you need to get better at it.


r3dh3d Mon 16-Jul-12 10:43:19

What will happen if the draft bill is met with wide-ranging criticism? Will the programme be pushed back while it is rewritten, or is the timetable not-negotiable?

SarahTeatherMP Mon 16-Jul-12 10:44:24


1. I have heard that personal budgets may well be notional budgets and actually parents will not get control at all.

Hi Agnes, thanks for your very detailed post. The pathfinders are testing out a mix of notional and direct payments. It isn't always sensible to have a direct payment if there is only one provider of a service in an area. But for the most part, I would hope parents would get direct payments where they want one. The purpose here is to try and give parents more choice and control - but only as much as they feel they can handle. Lots of parents have also expressed some anxiety to me about whether they feel they could take on this responsibility. We are trying to ease parents' burdens and not add to them!

I certainly agree with you that parents are more likely to know what their family needs. certainly the evidence from the pathfinders the Dept of Health ran previously says that money was much better spent and families were happier if parents got more control.

I'll pick up your other points when I respond to others as some others have raised similar points.


HotheadPaisan Mon 16-Jul-12 10:44:43

I have to say you could give some LAs years and they still wouldn't deliver, this is where the accountability issue comes in.

Migsy1 Mon 16-Jul-12 10:48:05

What do you think about the fact that 1 in 10 children / people are dyslexic and yet dyslexia is not taught in initial teacher training?

Also, schools do not seem to recognise dyslexia as a specific learning disability. I guess this is because the teachers have never been trained to spot it.

ArthurPewty Mon 16-Jul-12 10:48:38

LAs need to be held accountable for their shenanigans - forcing parents to appeal only to pull out days or hours before the hearing is INEXCUSABLE.

It just happened to us in June. It saved the LA having to pay for a specialist SLT while my little one was in an independent nursery.

We just received the proposed, so this will all be finalised in September - when my little one will be attending a state nursery. So the "autism outreach" will be covered by the CAT team, and will save the LA having to buy someone in because the independent nursery couldnt access it.

Disgusting practice. Meanwhile my little one had ONE iep target, one i demanded they implement, which is a 5 minute countdown to me collecting her. No brainer, really, for autism. Countdowns and transitions are critical.

Meanwhile it took us 2 1/2 years and 2 appeals to get the eldest's statement (she's 8 with HFA) and 1y 4 months, two requests, and one appeal to get the little one's statement.

WHY are the LAs not held accountable for this delay tactic behaviour????????????

ArthurPewty Mon 16-Jul-12 10:49:41

Not to mention the impact this has had on my marriage, my personal health (i've lost 2 1/2 stone from the stress) etc...

No one gives a flying toss about that :/

SarahTeatherMP Mon 16-Jul-12 10:52:25


There needs to be a legal requirement for the EHC Plan to specify and quantify the provision to be made, across education, health and care. The plan has to be legally enforceable, it is is not, then it will not be worth the paper it is written on and parents and children will find themselves in a worse situation than they are now.

sorry for delay in my post -- little computer crash problem...

The new plan will be legally enforceable in the same way as statement. What we are aiming to do is to add to the protections children and families get and not take away from them. That is the point about starting the plan from birth -- whereas at the moment, few families get this protection until their child starts school. we also want to extend protections up for young people who are still in education past 16. I doesn't make sense that young people lose protections for example, just because they are studying in a college as a opposed to a school.


SarahTeatherMP Mon 16-Jul-12 10:58:23

Lots of people have raised the point about local authorities and their performance - Agnes raised this point for eg.

We know that LAs are very variable in their behaviour. Not all parents have a terrible time. Some LAs pride themselves on listening carefully and working iwth parents. The pathfinders are about building on the best work and learning from it, but bringing the worst LAs up to the standard of the best.

One of the most important things pathfinders are doing is to develop better trust between parents and officials, in health and LAs. Pathfinders have been taking time to listen to what parents want - sometimes for the first time. It is part of the reason we continue to fund parents forums because they have suc an important role to play in arguing for parents and working constructively with LAs.

We want the whole system to be better from the first point of contact between a parent and LAs. That is what the local offer is about. We will require LAs to work with parents properly to develop the new local offer -- and that will be in the bill.

We will also be producing a new code of practise, which is an opportunity for retraining of LAs staff, making sure that they fully understand the law.


DebsKent Mon 16-Jul-12 10:59:55

Sarah, I am the chair of Kent's change board and think the "idea" of EHC plans is great. In theory though, how are you going to get the agencies to work together. Even people sitting in the same office give different levels of service.

ArthurPewty Mon 16-Jul-12 11:00:33

Will we be able to get ahold of this new COP as soon as the LAs are?

How about a SEN toolkit? Will that be updated too?

I'll need to read up on what's changing...

r3dh3d Mon 16-Jul-12 11:03:04

Well, the retraining thing is a good step. Because a lot of current problems come where council policy conflicts with the child's legal entitlement and council staff are trained on policy but not the law, and genuinely believe the child is not entitled, when actually they are.

But the fundamental economics is duff. It is cheaper for LAs to break the law and pay tribunal costs and token fines than to stay within the law and deliver the provision our kids are entitled to. That is why they do it - they simply can't afford to do the right thing because that is how the system is rigged. You can't introduce a new system and hope everyone will be nice and principled and do it right first time from now on, if you don't change the fundamental economics of it. Not when LA budgets have been hacked and slashed as they are at present. It needs to be cheaper to do it right than to do it wrong. Period.

HotheadPaisan Mon 16-Jul-12 11:03:16

My LA outsources the statement drafting process (I could have done a better job for free btw) but not the assessment process. Are any of the pathfinders looking at independent providers of assessments? Again many parents can and do bring the info to the LA, there doesn't need to be duplication of effort.

StarlightWithAsteroid Mon 16-Jul-12 11:03:41

I have no issues with a new COP, but the newness of it won't improve outcomes. Accountability improves outcomes. Given the poor level of adherence to the last perfectly good COP, how is this new one going to make any difference?

ArthurPewty Mon 16-Jul-12 11:05:19

r3dh3d has it spot on.

Until they are held accountable for messing us about, they'll keep doing whatever is cheapest - letting the time frames slide, deliberately ignoring independent advices, etc.

SarahTeatherMP Mon 16-Jul-12 11:05:51


I am very concerned about those special needs children who do not meet the criteria for an EHC plan. If the graduated approach is to be abolished how will the government ensure that these children's needs will get identified and supported. What resources will schools be given to support these pupils?

Finally, what support will be given to those children who are unable to access schooling due to medical and mental health problems. My child has been out of school for a year due to an anxiety disorder and ASD. As I understand it, they are only entitled to about 5 hours of home tuition a week (provided by the local authority). This is totally inadequate for those children who are out of school long term. Will the government be proposing to increase support for this group of children?

Hi Debjay, thanks for your questions, which a few other people raised too.

I want to reassure you about what we want to do to support children who won't meet the threshold for a plan. First the local offer is for all children with SEND. But we are also investing a great deal in training of school staff to improve their confidence to work with children with SEN. The new initial teacher training will provide more opportunities to learn about SEN, and we are offering scholarships to improve knowledge. We are training SENCOs and we are offering all schools the chance to be a part of the Achievement for All programme that had fantastic results in pilolt studies.

We will be joining the two SEN schools based categories (school action and school action plus) together -- but that won't result in any money being taken away from schools. We do want schools to ask better questions about why a child is falling behind. SOmetimes children are fallign behind for other reasons (eg a mental health problem) and that also needs addressing, without the child being labelled as having SEN.

On Debjay's other point about missing school because of medical problems, we are revising the guidance at the moment about this. We know it is a problem. We don't want LAs to do the minimum, we want them to do what is right for the child. Actually, this is one area where I have experience as I missed 4 years of school beacause of illness, and had no home tuition for most of it! So I have sympathy!

HotheadPaisan Mon 16-Jul-12 11:06:23

Jane McConnell of IPSEA talks about a lot of the things we say too btw, a detailed response to the issues she raises would be good:

silverfrog Mon 16-Jul-12 11:06:33

agree that 'just' bringing in a new COP will not change anyting.

the last one was fine, but not adhered to by the majority of LAs.

how will you go about addressing the abysmally poor expectations in many LAs/SN schools/anyone who works with a child with needs?

you can tinker with COP as much as you like, but if the expectations are that the children will not ever learn/achieve anything, then that is what will come about.

HotheadPaisan Mon 16-Jul-12 11:07:41

You have to ringfence the AEN and SEN money schools receive.

SarahTeatherMP Mon 16-Jul-12 11:09:05


Sarah, I am the chair of Kent's change board and think the "idea" of EHC plans is great. In theory though, how are you going to get the agencies to work together. Even people sitting in the same office give different levels of service.

The new bill will force health services to work with the local authority for the first time. Parents complain a great deal to us that health are not always willing to come up with the goods they promise, and it has been a regular complaint from LAs too. In the new system, health will need to commission services on the basis of need, and assess that need jointly with the LA. For the first time hopefully we will get the right kind of service in an area to meet the real need of children and young people, whether they have a plan or not.

r3dh3d Mon 16-Jul-12 11:10:22

Agree w Hothead. Schools, social workers, council leaders are begging us to do whatever we can to influence this bill to put in iron-clad protection of budgets and legal entitlements. They had rather spend this money on the kids than on mending the roads. But unless the cash is ring-fenced and protected by legislation, they will get voted out of office for doing so. They need - need more restrictions, not less.

HotheadPaisan Mon 16-Jul-12 11:11:03

What redress will there be if they don't work together quickly? I agree the penalties for delaying and denying provision have to be greater than the cost of just getting on with it quickly in the first place.

SarahTeatherMP Mon 16-Jul-12 11:12:41


how will you go about addressing the abysmally poor expectations in many LAs/SN schools/anyone who works with a child with needs?

you can tinker with COP as much as you like, but if the expectations are that the children will not ever learn/achieve anything, then that is what will come about.

I absolutely agree on this. As I said in a previous post, we are making the Achievement for All programme available to all schools who want to take part because it had fabulous results. The pilot ran until last year and in many cases, not only did the children with SEN do better than those not in the scheme, but in some cases did better in English and maths than children without SEN.

the key to the programme is about high expectations, setting goals and monitoring them, and the real new: actually listening to parents -- not just talking to parents, listening to what they say and reflecting on it and making use of their views in teaching practise.

ArthurPewty Mon 16-Jul-12 11:12:42

Round these parts (huge LA in the midlands) its not health who are the problem, its the LA, full stop. They seem to want to do the right thing but are told categorically to refuse statements, ignore evidence, let timeframes slip, forget to book statement medicals (twice), etc etc.

Our paed desperately wants to help but is told his hands are tied, he can do no more, everything is "in the hands of education".


NotOnUrNelly Mon 16-Jul-12 11:13:01

I get very angry when I seen the SEN budget being spent on helping children to learn English when my ds isn't getting help the EP has recommended BUT if money isn't spent on helping them, these children who don't speak English are being failed. Similarly if you don't use the SEN budget to help children who are failing because of bad parenting etc, how WILL you help them?

DebJay Mon 16-Jul-12 11:14:48

Thankyou Sarah for answering my questions.

Just one further question: will the government strengthen the role of Ofsted with regard to SEN?

In my experience as a parent, Ofsted questionnaires have never asked about the experiences of my children with SEN. Also, the resultant Ofsted reports of my children's schools (mainstream) had little reference to disability or SEN and what the school was doing well (or not) with regards to this group of children.


StarlightWithAsteroid Mon 16-Jul-12 11:17:30

Developmental disabilities are diagnosed in the NHS but passed to LAs for 'treatment'. Why?

SarahTeatherMP Mon 16-Jul-12 11:17:37


As a mother of two DC's with SEN's, I have a few questions :

1) In a town like mine, where all Secondaries will be Academies, as part of an Academy Consortium that share the same addmission criteria, how will you ensure that a DC with statement will have a school place in their town if the entire Academy Consortium refuses to admit them, and the Academy Consortium cannot be forced to admit a statemented pupil despite the SEN COP?

Hi CouthyMow -- I know that you have been an avid poster this weekend, so thank you for giving up so much time. I will respond to some here but we will read everything else later I promise and it will inform our thinking!

You raised some points about academies. We are determined that children in academies should get the same rights as in any other school. The new bill will make clear that parents can ask LAs to 'name' any statefunded school -- ie the process in a current statement that forces a school to admit a child. There have been some issues with some old style academies, but thankfully, the tribunal has recently ruled that they have to abide by the rules too. I want the bill to make things clearer for parents.

ArthurPewty Mon 16-Jul-12 11:17:58

Speaking as a parent and an immigrant (!!) this all sounds lofty, but eventually it will be shown to be ineffectual and possibly detrimental to the status quo.

At least with the current (terrible) system, you know what you're going to get - delay tactics, waffley proposed statements, being forced to appeal, LAs who will pull out at the last minute, cos there's no incentive for them to do it "right".

I dont think i could cope with trying to manage a budget too - i've had to fight so very hard since 2008/9 for provision for both my kids, that needing to manage who is coming in to deliver my children's supports seems a very very daunting task - what about cowboys? The LA are often cowboys themselves, how are we to know who is and isnt any good, who will deliver, who to choose from etc?

Will the LA handle it if a parent doesnt feel up to it? Most parents of autistic children I know of are too tired to deal with sourcing and paying for the expertise their children need in school, they're already stressed to the max because of the cuts, cuts to their personal money thanks to slashing the benefits, no support, cuts to respite, etc etc etc...

OxyMoron Mon 16-Jul-12 11:18:32

Please could you clarify whether or not children with medical needs will be supported in school? Thank you

HotheadPaisan Mon 16-Jul-12 11:19:09

Can anyone link to the academies and SENDT ruling, I thought that was still ongoing.

SarahTeatherMP Mon 16-Jul-12 11:19:37


Thankyou Sarah for answering my questions.

Just one further question: will the government strengthen the role of Ofsted with regard to SEN?

In my experience as a parent, Ofsted questionnaires have never asked about the experiences of my children with SEN. Also, the resultant Ofsted reports of my children's schools (mainstream) had little reference to disability or SEN and what the school was doing well (or not) with regards to this group of children.


We have already done this actually - the new Ofsted framework makes clear that schools will be inspected on how well they support children with SEN across all inspection criteria. I have spoken with the CHief Inspector on this and he is very keen to improve performance in this area.

Iceflower Mon 16-Jul-12 11:19:38

Can you answer what Hothead asked at 11.11? Thank you.

HotheadPaisan Mon 16-Jul-12 11:20:57

Personal budgets work well in social care, I want the option to provide SALT and OT as DS1 did not get any even though it was recommended and he needs it.

SarahTeatherMP Mon 16-Jul-12 11:23:12


At least with the current (terrible) system, you know what you're going to get - delay tactics, waffley proposed statements, being forced to appeal, LAs who will pull out at the last minute, cos there's no incentive for them to do it "right".

I dont think i could cope with trying to manage a budget too - i've had to fight so very hard since 2008/9 for provision for both my kids, that needing to manage who is coming in to deliver my children's supports seems a very very daunting task - what about cowboys? The LA are often cowboys themselves, how are we to know who is and isnt any good, who will deliver, who to choose from etc?

Will the LA handle it if a parent doesnt feel up to it? Most parents of autistic children I know of are too tired to deal with sourcing and paying for the expertise their children need in school, they're already stressed to the max because of the cuts, cuts to their personal money thanks to slashing the benefits, no support, cuts to respite, etc etc etc...

I know that many parents are very anxious about change. This is completely understandable. If you have fought the system for years to get help any change is worrying. But I ask you to remember how awful the journey was for you. This is what we are trying to make better for the parents who come after you. This is not about taking away your current safeguards, it is about making it quicker and less stressful for all those who would otherwise have to fight tomorrow.

Your point about personal budgets is exactly why I don't want to force anyone to take one up. We will be training keyworkers to support those who want this choice, but otherwise the LA will have to make provision as they already do.

r3dh3d Mon 16-Jul-12 11:23:19

Well, Ditto HH. My daughter is partially paralysed, cannot run, climb, jump, feed herself, toilet herself, communicate in any way (not even functional sign language) has diminishing use of the one hand she can use, etc. etc. etc. Signed off from Physio, OT and SALT as "having no needs".

DebJay Mon 16-Jul-12 11:23:54

Thankyou Sarah. It shall be interesting to see how Ofsted perform in this area of SEN and disability.

ArthurPewty Mon 16-Jul-12 11:25:11

"This is not about taking away your current safeguards"

As long as you can ensure that...

"We will be training keyworkers to support those who want this choice, but otherwise the LA will have to make provision as they already do."


BoffinMum Mon 16-Jul-12 11:25:16

At the moment the only 'help' we seem to get from the Local Authority is regular refusals and/or denials in relation to funding services that are out of county, even if they are the nearest suitable services.

I am wondering whether the new system will make it easier for people to cross borders to other counties to access provision, as necessary. Otherwise it's tough on people living on the borders.

SarahTeatherMP Mon 16-Jul-12 11:25:37


What redress will there be if they don't work together quickly? I agree the penalties for delaying and denying provision have to be greater than the cost of just getting on with it quickly in the first place.

The law will be clear. Health professionals and LAs will HAVE to work together. The missing bit is often the bit you don't see at the moment -- that drives what you as a parent experience. The missing bit is that the services that are commissioned often bear no relationship to need. Then everyone gatekeeps because there isn't enough speech and language therapy for eg. If you get the first step right, there is less gate keeping and less need to pursue redress.

HotheadPaisan Mon 16-Jul-12 11:26:02

Well, well, the academies were told not to be so silly, that is good news as all my local schools from infants to age 18 are academies now:

Leithlurker Mon 16-Jul-12 11:26:22

you have just got time to answer my post Sarah!

OneOfYourConstiuents Mon 16-Jul-12 11:27:12

I live in Brent, and my son has ASD. I have been less than impressed with the whole statementing process so far: it has gone over the statutory 26 weeks by a huge margin, and SENAS have been unhelpful and unresponsive. We have struggled to find any school which will accept him, as there seems to be a paucity of ASD provision in the borough for the Primary age range. Also, he has not had a session with a SALT since last December.

Now, before you say 'oh yes, the new system will get rid of all these issues', my concern is that many of them stem from a severe lack of funds. How this they are accessed does not change the core issue: there is no money.
SENAS - despite an increasing case load, their staff have been halved from 28 to 14.
Schools - I have been appalled by the attitude of some local schools, and the ones which are welcoming to ASD are so over-subscribed, that someone like me slipping in after places have been allocated doesn't stand a chance.
Salt - DS had a wonderful SALT. Wonderful. She went on Mat leave and wasn't replaced. We got transferred to SN Salt team, we had one meeting in February (no work took place with DS, no strategies sent home for me), and since then he has been seen 'in nursery'. Except that he hasn't, yet. He has four days left at his nursery.

I wish I could put this more coherently, but my question is about SN funding - I worry that whatever the set up, if there isn't the money or appropriate provision available, it is pointless.

StarlightWithAsteroid Mon 16-Jul-12 11:27:50

What happens if parents want provision through personal budgets that a LA doesn't agree with or want to provide?

What happens if the personal budget allocation by an LA is inadequate to meet the child's needs?

SarahTeatherMP Mon 16-Jul-12 11:28:42


Round these parts (huge LA in the midlands) its not health who are the problem, its the LA, full stop. They seem to want to do the right thing but are told categorically to refuse statements, ignore evidence, let timeframes slip, forget to book statement medicals (twice), etc etc.

Our paed desperately wants to help but is told his hands are tied, he can do no more, everything is "in the hands of education".


We are looking as part of the pathfinders at how w can make the journey quicker -- it is a very big chunk of a young child's life to wait half a year to get the support that they need. And LAs, health services and schools and colleges need to be providing some support before the plan comes in. The zero to hero approach is part of the problem. That is why we are going to legislate to make sure all LAs have a local offer in place, and that they talk to parents about what should be in that offer.

OneOfYourConstiuents Mon 16-Jul-12 11:29:00

Oops, I can spell constituents, I namechanged in a hurry.

HotheadPaisan Mon 16-Jul-12 11:29:17

Thanks Sarah, my LA are involving parents in the setting up of some new provision for children with ASD, that is involvement and consultation, it can be done. Best of luck with making improvements. These are interesting times and I really hope some positive change comes from this.

BoffinMum Mon 16-Jul-12 11:29:36

What about mainstream independent schools? They can be very good at kicking out kids with SEN. Any plans to bring them into line?

ArthurPewty Mon 16-Jul-12 11:31:39

Thank you for your replies, Sarah.

SarahTeatherMP Mon 16-Jul-12 11:35:25


Couthy: I am not about to start disagreeing with you indeed not much to disagree with. BUT I would suggest that in order to underline special needs schools and so both raise the profile and make clear the criteria to be applied to pupils who are put forward to attend them, and the expectations of the type and quality of the education provided. A presumption should be that a place in any mainstream school of should as of right be the default setting for education authorities.

There will be a need as there always has been and always will be a need for special schools, however your very point about students leaving such places functionally illiterate is an indication that special schools have not had an identifiable set of criteria the same as mainstream.

I went to a special school in the 60's -70's most of those I left with were functionally illiterate consigned to the dole or sheltered workshops, or day centres. That choice no longer exist and in some respects thank god. But to give Children with sever LD or physical disabilities the oppertunity to have some semblance of an independent life they need education not movement and dance mixed with social skills.

I agree that we need to improve support in all schools, both special and mainstream schools. We have begun a new teaching schools programme, where we are encouraging mainstream and special schools to work together. They have things they can teach one another in the best schools, and much that can be done to improve practise in the worst. I also posted earlier about our investment in teacher training.

We are also working with colleges to try and improve teaching quality for post 16 students.

Thanks also to sickofsocalledexperts for reminding everyone that our scholarship scheme has recently opened also to teaching assistants because they often have a wealth of experience and much to offer with further training and study.

r3dh3d Mon 16-Jul-12 11:36:44

Is this the "scholarship" scheme where schools have to find 50% of the funding out of their existing training budget? Our school couldn't afford it.

SarahTeatherMP Mon 16-Jul-12 11:38:06



I was going to ask you some hard questions but to be honest the wonderful MMers above have asked them all. I agree with Don'tPutBeerInHisEar that it's great how it's a Lib Dem minister who has to find a way though the policy mess promulgated by the Conservatives - good on you for caring anyway.

Will you accept my best wishes and good luck in your endeavours. I hope you find plenty of food for though on this MN webchat and thanks for doing it. And try to smile more on QuestionTime. smile

LineRunner x

thanks for your support! Sorry for not smiling on here -- I decided to answer as many of the the hard questions as I could in the time available! So here is a smile smile to say thanks -- and a big thanks to everyone who took part.

As I said earlier, we promise we will read everything you have written, even though I have not been able to respond to everyone in detail today.

Signing off now,

SarahTeatherMP Mon 16-Jul-12 11:38:52

PS -- we are going to put up some more answers over the next few days, so watch this space...

r3dh3d Mon 16-Jul-12 11:39:37

Thanks Sarah thanks - and good luck with what promises to be a pretty hectic Summer.

Iceflower Mon 16-Jul-12 11:41:09

Thank you, Sarah smile

StarlightWithAsteroid Mon 16-Jul-12 11:41:52

Thank you Sarah.

TheTimeTravellersWife Mon 16-Jul-12 11:52:41

Thank you very much Sarah. Sorry I missed the webchat, but very glad that you will be read and hopefully take on board all of the valid points made on here.

flashshirt Mon 16-Jul-12 12:23:58

Sorry I missed the webchat Sarah but I was sorting out my daughters life plan. I look forward to reading your answers to the questions asked. Will that include those questions parents left on the message board.

DontPutBeerInHisEar Mon 16-Jul-12 14:06:46

Thank you Sarah. I was also sorry to miss the webchat. I also look forward to reading more of your answers, though just wondering, if you are not able to answer them all - can you indicate where posters might be able to go in order to get replies to their specific questions?
Many thanks again.

coff33pot Mon 16-Jul-12 19:37:56

I also had to miss the webchat due to work committments but will look forward to reading all your answers
Thank you

CouthyMow Mon 16-Jul-12 20:04:37

Thank you so much. I hope you can answer a few more of my questions soon.

JugglingWithTangentialOranges Mon 16-Jul-12 21:57:02

Having had a quick scan through am slightly disappointed that there wasn't more mention of the governments approach to provision for under 5's, which I gather from the introduction is one of Sarah's areas of responsibility. I commend this area to her as a fruitful area for exploration, commitment, and action !

And again recommend looking to see what can be learned from the excellent approaches being taken in the Scandinavian countries where early years education and care seems truly valued and well resourced.

Research has shown that investment in this area will be well rewarded, paying for itself many times over, equipping future citizens for life and work, enabling more women to work,supporting families, and will be very popular with the voters wink

I hope the government can honour the encouraging noises it has made suggesting they understand the value of good early years provision. Sadly their actions of late, such as with regard to the funding of children's centres, doesn't appear to match their words.

DontPutBeerInHisEar Mon 16-Jul-12 22:07:23

I'll second that JWTO! grin

JugglingWithTangentialOranges Mon 16-Jul-12 22:10:37

Thanks Beer - I could do with one actually after my day today with the under 5's smile

AgnesDiPesto Mon 16-Jul-12 22:46:03

'It isn't always sensible to have a direct payment if there is only one provider of a service in an area'

But what if there are alternatives e.g. ABA but the LA does not want to recognise this as a valid alternative?

What about if the LA has a block contract with SALT at the hospital - these people have covered each others backs for years, are LAs really going to let parents go into the private sector when those professionals will be less willing to back shoddy provision at Tribunal? Surely there needs to be some compulsion that if a parent identifies a viable alternative (and there is lots of work ongoing to have ABA competency framework etc) then the LA will let the parent buy it?

How are you going to get info about what the real costs (not the ones LA report to Tribunals) of therapies etc are? My LA told the Tribunal as my child would not need the hospital to recruit him his own speech therapist then it was a nil cost! Obviously it does have a cost and to put that on an equal footing with the private sector it should include pension & training costs and % of capital costs etc. Then it would be seen that lots of therapies that look expensive are actually costing no more than public services. This info on true costs needs to get into the public domain so there can be some scrutiny about how these personal budgets are being costed.

I am not convinced parent forums are the answer. We have had one for a few years. We live in a massive rural area so they only meet once a month in the middle of a workday in the middle of the County, manageable for very few parents. I tried to join the committee but was told they already had too many parents from my area with children with autism and I could not join. Their meetings are closed so you cannot go along as a member of the public. A few of the members are to put it bluntly not best placed to advocate for others, having their own very narrow agenda. The LA has consistently refused to deal at all with other well established parent groups insisting everything has to go through the forum, even though they know the people on the forum are not terribly effective. So I do think these things can just be lip service and not actual engagement.

AgnesDiPesto Mon 16-Jul-12 22:47:34

JWTO I agree. My LA has just published an autism strategy where it has budgeted £15,000pa to deliver autism intervention to all under 5's in the County. Not quite the early intervention ST might have had in mind.

BoffinMum Tue 17-Jul-12 09:21:47

In 2004/5, our Local Authority wrote to most of the parents of children who had been identified in early years settings as needing SALT before starting school, telling them there was no money available for this, as demand had been too high. (There were supposed to be grants of £500 per child).

After an internal tipoff, we did an FOI request, and found there had in fact been a surplus in the allocated funds, of £57,000. This had been vired across to an Out of School scheme in another part of the county an hour away, which we believe was a local councillor's pet project. That could have funded SALT for 140 children (interestingly, as we understand it, fewer than this had applied, so it meant all the children could have been funded who were identified as needing the service).

In effect, therefore, the local authority had lied. When challenged, they just waffled on about how it was the Health Authority's responsibility to meet these costs. We tried to take a formal complaint through the appropriate channels, but got nowhere. (I did make a formal representation about this to the recent SEN enquiry, incidentally).

It's dealing with this sort of ignorance and dishonesty that makes life so difficult for parents of children with SEN.

HotheadPaisan Tue 17-Jul-12 10:00:21

Accountability is key. I was looking on line last night and my LA really is making a move in the right direction, they are involving us and funding new provision and have plans for the next four years that include a lot of the things Sarah mentioned here so they are listening. One thing I noticed is that they are looking into an independent provider of assessments and we're not even a pathfinder, they wanted to be one though.

Looking forward to Sarah coming back with more though. It would be great if we had a rolling or new thread at various stages of the proposals going though. I have a slight concern about all LAs reinventing the wheel with single plans, surely there could be some templates and so on. OTOH, I don't want to lose opportunities for consultation locally so that's a tricky one.

StarlightWithAsteroid Tue 17-Jul-12 16:57:28

Accountability IS key. You can have as many new COPs. Policies, guidelines, laws even, but until unless they are enforced they mean nothing.

HotheadPaisan Tue 17-Jul-12 17:00:56

Ours are really trying to make their processes and decisions transparent too. I went to my first parental consultation involvement event recently and some of the more experienced parents commented that we often target the wrong people with our unhappiness at how things are. This is why funding needs to be ringfenced and provision statutory and we need to be involved in streamlining and getting value for money. We should all be on the same side.

BoffinMum Wed 18-Jul-12 12:59:47

I agree - once we had a period when we were very much on the same side as the LA and it made a huge difference for one of the kids. Saved a lot of money and got a better education for him as a result. Parents are not always out for everything they can get from the taxpayer, sometimes we just want to ensure efficient delivery just like the LA does.

AgnesDiPesto Wed 18-Jul-12 14:59:50

I think this is the difficulty when LAs are so different and some behave well and some poorly.

On paper our local offer will look very similar to others - e.g. we have autism outreach teams, behaviour support teams, enhanced mainstream provisions for different disabilities. But the reality in the face to face intervention time provided is vastly different than other areas. Here professionals do not see or work directly with children at all, its all 'consultative' which often means just travelling around the County giving the same generic basic level advice again and again. Over the border a 3 year old is getting 25 hours of specialist input a week directly from the outreach service. Here they get 1 hour a term 'advice'. Underneath the local offer is a web of eligibility criteria and budget allocations, the devil is in the detail. But the local offer is just going to say we have autism outreach - its not going to specify a minimum number of hours or even if a particular child is eligible for the service at all - so on paper the service could look identical to the one next door.

r3dh3d Wed 18-Jul-12 16:16:16

Well Agnes, this is why I asked Sarah if the Local Offer was going to be subject to the same requirements of specificity as Statements, so a LA who published a Local Offer in terms of "access" and "availability" and "advice" would be made to withdraw it, and quantify it.

She didn't reply.

DontPutBeerInHisEar Mon 23-Jul-12 17:48:35


FrancesMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 07-Aug-12 12:09:43

Hello, Sarah Teather's office have kindly come back to me with answers for some of the questions she missed.

SarahTeatherMP Tue 07-Aug-12 12:14:24

Thanks again for inviting me to Mumsnet and to all of you for taking the time to ask such considered and helpful questions. I’m sorry that I didn’t get the chance to answer everyone’s questions. I will be coming back to do another session very soon, but in the meantime I wanted to provide a response to many of the questions that I didn’t have time to answer on the day – which have been grouped together in themes. We will also be updating the Department for Education’s website with Q&A, so if your question hasn’t been covered rest assured that it is being looked at and we’ll continue to add to the information on the Department’s website.

Many of you were interested in what the pathfinder areas were doing as they test out our proposed reforms. We’ve set up a special website with information about them and over the summer we’re working with experts in SEN and disability to put together some case studies to highlight what’s being learnt. More of that soon. Some of you are in pathfinder areas – and thanks for sharing your experience with others – in the autumn I’ll be visiting a number of the pathfinders so I hope to meet you in person then!

SarahTeatherMP Tue 07-Aug-12 12:15:15

There were quite a few questions about how health, education and social care will work together and how they will be accountable to you.

The introduction of a requirement for local authorities and health agencies to plan and commission services jointly for disabled children and young people and those with SEN is a significant change. We want this joint commissioning requirement to fit within the new health system and help make sure that their needs are met as part of a joined-up approach that stretches across education, health and social care. Don’tPutBeerInHisEar also asked about the participation of Health in the pathfinder areas: what we want to see as a result of our proposals is a more integrated, streamlined assessment process, working with parents from the beginning, and that is really important in what is being tested. It will mean that commitments to provide services like speech and language therapy will be made and kept at the outset. Along with the requirement for families to be offered a personal budget for their support, these new arrangements should reduce the need for parents to seek redress to get the support they need.

The independent Children and Young People’s Health Forum, led by Christine Lenehan, the Director of the Council for Disabled Children and Professor Ian Lewis, Medical Director at Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust published its proposals yesterday on how health-related care for children and young people can be improved: The forum has been asked to consider the routes of redress available to children, young people and families as part of further work over the summer.

SarahTeatherMP Tue 07-Aug-12 12:23:02

There were a number of questions about how much the changes would cost and how they would be paid for. There’s no getting away from the fact that we are in a challenging financial climate; but this makes getting the best use of the resources that are available more important than ever. We have been clear to local leaders that they should make vital frontline services to vulnerable children and young people a priority.
At the moment an awful lot of money is wasted in the current system. Many of you recounted your experience of seeing resources go on Tribunal hearings and trying to deal with bureaucratic systems. Our reforms are about freeing up some of that time and energy so it can be spent working directly with children, young people and parents from the beginning.
The onus on local authorities and health providers working together will make a big difference, particularly for things like speech and language therapy, which we know in some areas children really struggle to access at the right time, as well as mental health provision. Making sure that you properly commission, on the basis of need, and that you plan together to do that, will help significantly.

SarahTeatherMP Tue 07-Aug-12 12:23:45

DebJay asked what resources will be given to schools to support children and young people who do not have an EHCP. What we want to do through the reforms is ensure that schools provide the right teaching and support to children to avoid them being given a label but not being given the right support to fulfil their potential. Unfortunately Ofsted has found that many pupils put in the School Action category would not be identified as having special educational needs if they were getting the right support and learning from their schools. This doesn’t mean ending a graduated approach to SEN, but it is about helping children get the right support to achieve.
The other point that I want to stress is that these changes do not affect the funding provided to schools for SEN the amount of money that schools get through the Dedicated Schools Grant (which includes funding for Special Educational Needs) has been protected so that, overall, it is at the same cash level per pupil now as in 2010-11. Alongside this, our proposed school funding reforms and local offer should provide clearer, more accessible information on the funding that schools receive to support pupils with SEN, as well as the funding that local authorities have to support pupils with more complex needs.

SarahTeatherMP Tue 07-Aug-12 12:24:16

Understandably a lot of questions focused on how the legal protections that have been built up in the current system will be retained. The first thing I want to say is that what we are aiming to do is strengthen the existing protections and not take things away. I said this in the webchat, but it’s so important that I want to repeat it again here.

But to make things better there does need to be change. The age range that protections apply to is also changing, so it’s a 0 -25 system rather than there being a cut off at 16 or a delay until children reach school age. NotOnUrNelly asked if there would be a revised code of practice and whether it would be statutory guidance. The simple answer is yes, there will need to be new guidance and yes, it will be statutory.

SarahTeatherMP Tue 07-Aug-12 12:24:40

One of r3dh3d’s questions was about the accountability for the local offer, which was something that many of you were interested in – specifically, will the local offer be practical, quantified and verifiable. We will require in law that local authorities publish a local offer of services for disabled children and young people and those with special educational needs and their families. The local offer will give families clear, accessible information about the support that’s available locally from their local authority, schools and health services and how to seek more specialist help if their needs are not being met. This strong national framework will stop families having to battle for basic information and enable them to know what support they can expect from local services and who is responsible for providing it. It will also set out what to do if things go wrong, including how to complain or appeal against decisions. To help ensure they’re practical I want local authorities to work with children and young people, parents and carers to develop their local offer and build on the success of local parent and carer forums in developing local policies.

SarahTeatherMP Tue 07-Aug-12 12:25:13

There were quite a few questions about personal budgets, and some specific questions about whether they could be used to buy Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) support for autistic children from northernglam, kaz110 and others.

The intention of the new Education Health and Care Plan is that it should focus on what the child and the family needs, outcomes for children and young people and therefore what services are needed to put in place to deliver that.

We want to give parents with a new Education Health and Care Plan the option of a personal budget for their package of support so that they can be much more involved in how the resources for their child’s support are provided, either through a ‘notional budget’ or through direct cash payments. So, if ABA is an agreed part of their plan parents could certainly use their personal budget to choose their ABA support.

Some of you were concerned that personal budgets wouldn’t be for everyone. I agree and that’s why parents won’t have to take up a personal budget if that’s not a route they want to go down - the support in the plan will be provided whether or not parents choose one. But the entitlement to a personal budget will make sure agencies are clear about the level of support a child or young person is getting and why they are getting it.

SarahTeatherMP Tue 07-Aug-12 12:26:09

GetKnitted, northernglam, Italiana and JugglingWithTangentialOranges all had questions about early education and childcare. Good quality and affordable childcare is a top priority for this Government and there’s lots happening. On 5 July we launched a consultation on the eligibility criteria for free early education for two year olds from September 2014. We’ve already said that we hope local authorities might prioritise disabled children and children with special educational needs for any discretionary free places they are able to offer from September 2013. In the consultation we’re asking if the legal entitlement to early education should be extended to two year olds with statements of SEN (or an education, health and care plan) or in receipt of DLA and for comments on the feasibility and appropriateness of this. There’s more information here: And on 19 July we launched a call for evidence on how to reduce the costs of childcare for working families. If you do get an opportunity to comment we would really appreciate hearing your views.

I’m very much looking forward to talking to you again on Mumsnet soon. What you tell me is at the centre of the reforms we’re taking forward. The Department provides up to £1.5 million each year to support local parent carer forums. We are also supporting the National Network of Parent Carer Forums to help develop a national voice and perspective that comes directly from the experiences and views of those local forums. The parents that I meet are, rightly, amongst the most challenging in terms of the expectations that they have for our reforms. We have parent carer representatives on the National Advisory Group for the reforms and the steering group for the Pathfinder programmes. We want to make sure that we are consistently involving parents in developing the reforms and in challenging us on our progress.

Best wishes


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