This week both IPSEA, a national charity which offers free legal advice to families with children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) and Every Disabled Child Matters (EDCM) have strongly voiced their concerns over the Draft SEN Code of Practice which was published in October. The consultation period ended on October 9.
The Children and Families Bill, which is awaiting Parliamentary approval of the Bill, plans major reforms to the systems that are in place for adoption, looked after children, family justice and Special Educational Needs (SEN) for children and young people up to the age of 25.The revised code aims to be published in the Spring of 2014.
At the moment my son aged 5 has a Statement of Educational Needs and attends a Specialist ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) School which is out of county. Therefore the proposed changes and how they could affect my son in his future educational life are of importance to me.
Having read the proposed changes I have to agree with both IPSEA and EDCM in their thoughts about the changes taking place and that there are failings within it.
There will be an end to Statements and they will be replaced by an Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP). IPSEA state in their Press Release IPSEA response to the draft SEN regulations, draft SEN Code of Practice & Transitional arrangements December 10:
'The Regulations do not provide a clear, detailed and unambiguous framework for the replacement to statements, the EHC Plan. Local councils will be able to do their own thing, leading to an increase in the postcode lottery when it comes to supporting vulnerable children and young adults. Localism in this area is not beneficial to people who need the clarity of nationally set standards.'
This I find extremely worrying. Again it seems that provision will come down to funding or lack of, and where you live. Once again parents and carers will be left to fight for the needs of their child to gain a basic education.
What is also of concern are those children who have SEN but who do not have an EHCP, it seems that their needs have not been taken into consideration at all. Once again IPSEA state:
'The majority of children with SEN who will not have an EHC plan will be worse off. The draft Code omits guidance to schools on implementing a standard system to identify their difficulties and to respond to them in a graduated way. Clear accountability will be removed.'
IPSEA chief executive, Jane McConnell is calling for a moratorium which in itself speaks volumes and that the Draft Code needs to be re written and then re consulted.
EDCM issued their response on Monday 8 Dec and their key concerns are that all services involved are not being given clear information or indeed being informed of what their responsibilities should be. There seems to be no clear framework for them to work with. What is even more worrying is that they state:
'It fails to empower parents and young people to hold the system accountable'
Life is already difficult enough for parents who have children with SEN, gaining a diagnosis for a start and then having to fight to get them into the appropriate school to meet their needs without these further obstacles being put in our place. The proposed plan appears to be failing on the most basic level.
EDCM also echo IPSEA's concerns in that for children without an EHCP that they will be placed at a disadvantage.
Beatrice Barleon, who is the campaign manager of EDCM, is quoted as saying
"... in its current form, the code of practice fails to provide the practical guidance needed into how the new system of support for children with SEN should work effectively. It requires significant revision to ensure that it does not undermine parents' confidence in the new system or the government's ambitions for reform, which have been widely welcome."
Therefore two leading voices in the world of SEN have both publically condemned the SEN Draft Code of Practice. It is now time that the Government listened to what they have to say and to re write the Code taking into account their suggestions as well as the view of parents, carers and those working in front-line services and provision.
I fear that there are very frightening times ahead for parents and carers who have children with SEN.
IPSEA's Press Release can be found here
EDCM response can be found here