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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.

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?

TheLazyGirlBlog Sat 14-Jul-12 12:00:03

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

saintlyjimjams Sat 14-Jul-12 12:59:34

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

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

HotheadPaisan Sat 14-Jul-12 14:46:16

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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.

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