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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.

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


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 12:24:40

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 12:24:16

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 12:23:45

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 12:23:02

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 12:15:15

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 12:14:24

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!

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.

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


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.

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.

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.

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

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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 10:00:21

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

I'll second that JWTO! grin

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.

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

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

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

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.

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