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

184 replies

FrancesMumsnet · 13/07/2012 13:10

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.

OP posts:
HotheadPaisan · 13/07/2012 13:18

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HotheadPaisan · 13/07/2012 13:49

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StopBadgercull · 13/07/2012 17:17

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SNM · 13/07/2012 17:30

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.

devientenigma · 13/07/2012 18:11

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 · 13/07/2012 18:42

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 · 13/07/2012 18:50

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 · 13/07/2012 18:56

So many questions...

Meglet · 13/07/2012 19:14

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 · 13/07/2012 19:16

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 · 13/07/2012 19:38

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 · 13/07/2012 20:18

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 · 13/07/2012 21:24

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 · 13/07/2012 21:41

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 · 13/07/2012 22:14

Sarah's hoping that Jeremy Paxman does not use MumsNet

DebJay · 13/07/2012 22:28

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.

devientenigma · 13/07/2012 23:00

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 · 13/07/2012 23:33

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 · 13/07/2012 23:33

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 · 14/07/2012 00:43

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 · 14/07/2012 02:25

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.
ThisIsNotWhatIWasAfter · 14/07/2012 05:05
Iceflower · 14/07/2012 08:29
  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 · 14/07/2012 08:46

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Message withdrawn at poster's request.

lionheart · 14/07/2012 09:10

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.

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