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Edward Timpson, Minister of State for Children and Families, LIVE webchat about SEN reforms, on Tuesday 13 November at 12:00pm

(142 Posts)
FrancesMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 09-Nov-12 22:37:27

You may remember that we were due to have the previous Children's Minister, Sarah Teather, on Mumsnet for a webchat back in September but she was reshuffled just hours beforehand. So we're very pleased that the new Children's Minister, Edward Timpson, will be here for a LIVE webchat on Tuesday 13 November at 12:00pm to discuss the Government?s proposed changes to special educational needs policy.

The Department for Education has been consulting on draft clauses for the Children and Families Bill since September. This is what the DfE says the aims of the bill are:

-Local authorities and local health bodies would be required to plan and commission education, health and care services jointly and publish a clear and transparent 'local offer' of services for children and young people and families.

-A more streamlined assessment process would be put in place, integrating education, health and care services and involving children, young people and their families at its heart.

-A new birth to 25 Education, Health and Care Plan, replacing the current system of Statements and Learning Difficulties Assessments, would reflect the child's or young person's aspirations for the future, as well as their current needs and have a stronger focus on preparing them for adulthood.

-Young people aged 16-25 in further education would have comparable rights to those in schools.

-Families and young people with an Education, Health and Care Plan would have the option of a personal budget for their support.

More information is available here.

Prior to entering Parliament, Edward was a family law barrister in Cheshire, specialising in the cases of vulnerable children. He has two adopted brothers and his parents have fostered 87 children over the last 30 years, many of whom Edward grew up with.

Until his ministerial appointment he was Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Groups on Adoption & Fostering and Looked After Children & Care Leavers and Vice Chairman for the Runaway & Missing Children group. He is married with three children.

We know that many posters on Mumsnet are deeply involved in the issues highlighted in the draft bill, and that some of you have already responded to related consultations; now's your chance to put your questions and concerns directly to the minister, so please join us live on Tuesday if you can. If you can't make it on the day, please post up your questions in advance here.



AgnesDiPesto Tue 13-Nov-12 12:40:09


EdwardTimpsonMP Tue 13-Nov-12 12:40:10


My child was abused, misunderstood, confined because that was what they prefered to do. He had a full statement of 25 hrs not being implemented and there was nothing I could do about it. I emailed Mr Gove telling him this schools method of running (ofsted outstanding?) and that it was an academy. Told him Cornwall lacks in services and understanding and could he help the children of this school as mine was not the only child suffering.

Got a standard reply template to contact LGO. I pulled my son out of school as I had no choice and it would have cost £8000 to take an academy to tribunal I would not get legal aid either as self employed.

Out of all this reform business what we want as parents is the schools to take responsibility for their actions and actually implement a statement. Which we are told is a legally binding document?

How is this reform going to guarantee that our children are going to be provided for? How is this reform going to guarantee that if parents receive direct payments and send proffessionals to school that the schools will accept it.

Parents and their children need to see something lock tight Mr Timpson because the stress breaks families.

Thank you for your post - I am very sorry for the stress you and other parents with similar stories have been through. The draft provision puts clear duties on local authorities to ensure that the EHC Plan is implemented and on schools to work with local authorities to do so. We are testing through the pathfinders practical issues around the operation of personal budget, including other professionals coming into schools.

MrsjREwing Tue 13-Nov-12 12:40:39

I am so so gratefull, thank you.

Snorbs Tue 13-Nov-12 12:42:19

Mr Timpson, many people here have asked what sanctions will be enforced against LAs that flout the laws regarding SEN provision. I have failed to read an answer from you on that specific point. I'd be really interested to hear what you have to say.

EdwardTimpsonMP Tue 13-Nov-12 12:42:47


Dear Tim,

My question is Tim what happens to those children who already have statements of special educational needs???????

Do they get converted to an EHC plan? It's a scary thought!

I am a mother of two children both with SEN one who is Autistic and attending special school I had to 'fight' with the LA to get him into a special school. My child could not cope at mainstream school and the school were not capable of meeting his needs. The process to actually get him into a special school whilst at mainstream almost took a year. A whole year of my child's life was put on hold he continued to struggle on.

My child with ASD has a statement although we are appealing to the SENDIST tribunal as the statement doesn't ?quantify? or ?specify? provision in line with the Sen Code of Practice like many statements I have seen they are all pretty much the same. If you want your child to receive provision or go to a specialist school you have to battle the LA.

The statutory process is a long tiring process as is the route to tribunal but at least parents have the 'right' to request a statutory assessment and the right to appeal to tribunal with the current system.
If these proposed changes go through they will simply take away parents rights to request a statutory assessment there is no other way in excusing this at all. The new bill waters down the parents? rights, the parents suffer but mostly importantly our children suffer the most. Do they not have enough to contend with already?It will take away the right from parents to be able to appeal to the SEND tribunal.

I am, like I'm sure most parents tired of fighting the system and battling endlessly just to get an education and support for my children but it's something we all have to do because otherwise our children simply wouldn't get the help or provision they need.

What about those children who have Aspergers, Dyslexia, visual impairment those who have an average cognitive ability the new legilsation does not cater for them at all?

The only advantage is that the age will be raised until 25 which is great and really what the current system should be providing anyway.

Why not just amend the current system and increase the age to 25???

At least with the Sen Code of Practice parent's know what their rights are and the LA know they should write statements in line with the SEN code of practice, although they don't we as parents can at least appeal, why should that right be taken away?

Please do not let these proposals go through everyone will suffer the parents of the children, the children and the schools the list is endless.

This will be the first time that such leglisation is passed to strip away parents rights for getting their children with SEN an education and help they need.

I know how nervous many parents are about the changes we are bringing forward and it is only right that they question what it will mean in practice for them and their family. To re-emphasise it is not our intention to dilute the rights that parents and young people have under the current system. In fact, with the extension of the exisiting rights to 0 - 25 and the inclusion of joint commissioning and a duty on health, education and social care services to co-operate, I believe parents will be in a stronger system as a result of the reforms.

StarlightMcKenzie Tue 13-Nov-12 12:44:27

'So, let's allow legal aid, put witnesses on oath and make LAs explain in writing the decisions they take about provision. Let them be judicially reviewable for those decisions and let them be subject to costs orders for prevarication.'

Yes. I'd like to see this too. And I would expect it to drastically reduce costs, and ensure an effective system and an effective education once it had bedded down, not to mention bring about huge savings in adult services when the children that have been recipients of such an accountable and transparant effective system become adults.

Would you consider these suggestions?

HotheadPaisan Tue 13-Nov-12 12:45:04

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

StarlightMcKenzie Tue 13-Nov-12 12:46:13

I'm not nervous about change, I am anxious that an opportunity has been lost.

It looks to me like all we are doing is changing the paint on a crumbling structure.

EdwardTimpsonMP Tue 13-Nov-12 12:46:25


Mr Timpson, many people here have asked what sanctions will be enforced against LAs that flout the laws regarding SEN provision. I have failed to read an answer from you on that specific point. I'd be really interested to hear what you have to say.

Routes of redress to hold LAs to account include the tribunal system, which we are extending, Ofsted inspections, the Local Government Ombudsman, other local accountability structures and, in some instances where a LA acts unreasonably or breaks the law, the Secretary of State.

AgnesDiPesto Tue 13-Nov-12 12:46:37

But the LA is both assessor and funder. They just write plans and statements to resources not needs that's the conflict and the bill will not change that

devientenigma Tue 13-Nov-12 12:46:48

so what happens when the health profs and education conflict and allow a severely disabled child to remain at home 24/7 with no services?

That does not put parents in a strong position!

EdwardTimpsonMP Tue 13-Nov-12 12:47:49


The whole system is corrupt, what happened to EDCM etc ??

My son has been left at home for over 3 year with no services thats needed while the LEA chose to disregard his issues/disabilities. His statement has been sent to 5 neighboroing LA's with no luck, no one can meet his needs. Limbo !!

To clarify the matter DS has a well known syndrome as well as a few other that profs seem to steer clear of, quite severe in his needs, can be 2:1 never mind 1:1, he has been statemented from 2 year old and has attended special school since then, until his stress and anxiety that school caused him meant he could no longer face it. Stress and anxiety caused by issues he has declared and been's not!!!

So where do you go when the whole system is failing??

I'm sorry to read about your son's experiences. This is precisely why we want to change the system - to give parents and young people a greater voice in the services they receive and the development of services locally, and also the routes of redress I outlined in my previous post.

StarlightMcKenzie Tue 13-Nov-12 12:48:42

'Routes of redress to hold LAs to account include the tribunal system, which we are extending, Ofsted inspections, the Local Government Ombudsman, other local accountability structures and, in some instances where a LA acts unreasonably or breaks the law, the Secretary of State.'

But this is the root of the current problems, - that these organisations are both toothless and themselves appear to not understand the law they are supposed to be defending. THIS is what needs changing, - not the local offer.

Get these above organisations to do what they are supposed to do, and the rest will follow.

coff33pot Tue 13-Nov-12 12:50:03

Mr Timson my LA has been great (yes I know its a rarity!) they have gone above and beyond for my son. It was the school itself. So either the LA needs more clout with academies or someone somewhere needs to impose fines or consequences on schools too.

By the time we go along the fight path our children are leaving to go to the next school. Their education still in tatters and trust gone.

inappropriatelyemployed Tue 13-Nov-12 12:50:04

I have spent over two thousand pounds challenging the LGO for its unlawful practices in consistently refusing to apply the law on failing to arrange the provision in a child's statement. I had to threaten to take them to judicial review. My son was without provision for 6 months in clear breach of the Education Act and its case law.

This meant nothing to the LGO who had to be forced by threat of judicial review to look at this case again. 18 months later, the Ombudsman withdrew it's decision but we are still waiting for them to make their minds up.

If the Ombudsman won't enforce the law and LAs and their witnesses lie to Tribunals (and they do constantly) where is the redress??

devientenigma Tue 13-Nov-12 12:50:10

Thanks for the reply.

That comes down to assessment and the profs are all in conflict with each other about his needs, plus he lacks accountability, lacks motivation etc etc and doesn't look good on paper as well as costing a lot of much easier to stay in conflict, hence we get nowhere!

Snorbs Tue 13-Nov-12 12:50:13

As I understand it the tribunal system has no powers whatsoever to impose sanctions on LAs for their failures. I don't think Ofsted has either.

But please enlighten me about how well this accountability system works: how many times has the Secretary of State sanctioned LAs for their failure to follow the law regarding statementing and/or provision of SEN services? I'd guess at "zero".

AgnesDiPesto Tue 13-Nov-12 12:51:02

What use are sanctions after the event when child missed boat. penalties for under provision would deter and change behaviour. My sons statement went through two panels and was only 10% of needs tribunal found. 90% shortfall my son will never get that time back.

alison222 Tue 13-Nov-12 12:51:57

Given that these routes of redress are currently failing children as I and others have posted on here, is there nothing you propose to do to actually force LEAS to comply with the law without imposing such stressful processes on parents?

LEA's are responsible for assessing, providing and budgeting for SEN's and they look at their own complaints. How can this be impartial?

My opinion of OFSTED is that as long as you have paperwork to hand to show the bits you want to and that you can talk a good talk for a couple of hours you can pull the wool over an inspectors eyes.

I note that you did not actually want to commit to even saying that there will be a duty on LEA's to actually provide what is in their "local offer".

inappropriatelyemployed Tue 13-Nov-12 12:52:15

Could you please answer:

1. Why your pathfinder authorities continue to break the law on SEN DPs?

2. Why it is acceptable for Directors of Education to give evidence to a Select Committee saying 'we don't do statements': how will your reforms change that?

EdwardTimpsonMP Tue 13-Nov-12 12:52:27



What experience do you have of children with special educational needs and disabilities?! How can you know what impact your reforms will have if you don't?


Hi Hayley - as you may know I grew up in a family who fostered 87 children, some of whom had special educational needs. I remember one weekend a month spending most of the weekend dancing to Shakin Stevens with a down syndrome teenager we gave respite care to who was a big fan! But what it taught me was the need to have as much ambition for a child with additional needs. Since becoming Minister I have, like today, taken as much time as possible to meet with parents, service users and others with a vested interest in us getting these reforms right.

AgnesDiPesto Tue 13-Nov-12 12:53:13

Give us legal aid for educational negligence if so sure sanctions not needed.

inappropriatelyemployed Tue 13-Nov-12 12:53:22

Perhaps you would like to meet a group of mumsnetters??

Glitterknickaz Tue 13-Nov-12 12:53:38

What will be done to ensure LAs meet their obligations under the new system? Very little is currently done.

devientenigma Tue 13-Nov-12 12:54:14

My son also has down syndrome and obviously not as lucky as your fostered teenager!

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