Councils ‘failing special educational needs children’

More than half the councils meant to road test the government’s proposals to give parents of children with special educational needs personal budgets have failed to produce plans to implement them. This is from the Guardian…

The 31 “pathfinder” councils, set up in 2011, were supposed to trial the “biggest reforms in 30 years to help disabled children and those with special educational needs” ensure their needs were prioritised. However, research by MHP Health Mandate found that of the 31, eight local authorities had not produced any strategies. The remaining 23 councils had plans — but nine of these did not mention “special educational needs”.

The policy had been driven through by Downing Street alarmed by surveys showing more than a quarter of parents of children with autism say they have had to wait more than two years to get the support their child needs at school.

It is a crucial time as the new NHS bodies designed to co-ordinate with councils begin operating in April. An analysis of parliamentary figures, shows that £3.8m of taxpayers’ money set aside for the scheme by the local authorities appears not to have been used.

Ministers had asked councils to ensure a number of tasks were followed: the new health and wellbeing boards — a vital link with the NHS — were part of the set up; a focus was put on school outcomes; and “offers of a personal budget to improve the choice, control and outcomes for children, young people and their families” were given.

The pathfinders were expected to run until the autumn of 2012, before the children and families Bill was presented to parliament. However, in November 2012, the department for education announced that the pathfinder trials would be extended by another 18 months and end in September 2014. The result was that MPs were voting through a bill today for key changes which critics say there was no evidence for.

Ben Nunn, the researcher who completed the local government audit at MHP Health Mandate, said: “The government’s education reforms present an important opportunity to fundamentally change the way young people with special educational needs are supported and educated. However, this cannot be achieved without cooperation from the health system and, in particular, the bodies specifically designed to bring this about. Councils and government should consider this new evidence to ensure SEN services are being appropriately prioritised locally to deliver the best possible care for those at need.”

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Categories: Local authorities and Policy.

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