Weekly political news round up – Friday 28th February 2014

February 28, 2014 in News by Whitehouse

Around the sector

The Department for Education has published a speech on the NHS’s role in support for children with SEN, given by Children’s Minister Edward Timpson at an event hosted by the Council for Disabled Children. In his speech, he claimed that the Children and Families Bill and the 0-25 code of practice represented a “real breakthrough”: rebooting the relationship between health and social care in favour of families, and dissolving the barriers that divide teams, departments and agencies.

NHS England launches procurement process to accredit the best commissioning support suppliers

NHS England has announced that it is launching a process to create a unique framework agreement for commissioning support services. The lead provider framework will allow Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG’s), NHS England and others to buy some or all of their commissioning support needs, ranging from non-frontline services to bespoke services. It is anticipated that over the next four years, £3-5bn of services will be procured through it.

Developed to answer calls from local clinical commissioners who have asked for a simpler and less costly process for securing the support they need, it will cut the typical procurement process from nine months to three months and reduce costs by more than a half. NHS England also has said that it is inviting bids from any organisation or group of organisations that can deliver the services in scope, including, NHS bodies, local authorities, private sector and voluntary sector suppliers.

NHS England also said that in March it would be announcing the launch of a separate niche and specialist supplier list for commissioners to find out more about the services that small to medium enterprises and voluntary sector organisations provide. NHS England believes that these organisations offer deep expertise which will support commissioners to secure the best outcomes for patients with specific conditions.

A pre-qualification questionnaire for the framework can be downloaded through registering on the NHS Business Services Authority eTendering Service website, available here, with a deadline of 12th May listed.

Answers to written questions on funding for young people with SEN

Labour MP Alex Cunningham has received answers to two written questions to the Education Secretary on funding for young people with SEN.

  • The first asked how much funding was transferred from the Education Funding Agency (a) to each local authority and (b) in total to assist the education of young people with learning difficulties and disabilities aged between 16 and 25 in the current financial year.

Children’s Minister Edward Timpson responded that the total post-16 high needs funding allocation to local authorities for the 2013-14 financial year was £272 million, available here. He added that the total amount allocated to institutions for post-16 high needs students was £379 million, with the 16 to 19 funding allocations, available here for the 2013/14 academic year showing place funding allocations made to institutions.

  • The second asked how much each local authority spent on educating young people with learning difficulties and disabilities aged between 16 and 25 in the current financial year.

Timpson responded that Local authorities are required to report actual expenditure on education through the annual Section 251 data collection. The data for financial year 2013-14 have not yet been submitted to the Department for Education, but would be published in December 2014.

Weekly political news round up – Friday 21st February 2014

February 21, 2014 in News by Whitehouse

Around the sector

The Scottish Government has announced that Professor Iram Siraj has been appointed Chair of the Scottish Government’s Review of the Early Years Workforce. The workforce review will examine a range of issues including skills and qualifications, career progression, recruitment and retention, and workforce planning – to ensure that all those working in early years settings have the right skills and experience to deliver high-quality early learning and childcare across the country.

The Welsh Government has announced an independent review into the role and functions of the Children’s Commissioner for Wales. The review follows calls from the current Children’s Commissioner to reflect developments and changes in Wales since the office was established in 2001. The Children’s Commissioner primarily has the task of safeguarding and promoting the rights and welfare of children and young people in Wales.

The National Children’s Bureau has announced that Chief Executive Dr Hilary Emery will be standing down from her position in the summer of 2014. The National Children’s Bureau Board of Trustees and Senior Leadership Team are leading the process to find a replacement.

The BBC has reported that a survey carried out by disability charity Scope and social networking website Mumsnet has found that families with disabled children feel that their children are missing out on social activities and clubs. Nearly 40% of the 550 parents surveyed said their children never had the chance to spend leisure time with children who did not have disabilities. Some respondents said that they sometimes received an unwelcoming response from staff, other parents and other children.

Weekly political news round up – Friday 14th February 2014

February 14, 2014 in News by Whitehouse

Update on the Children and Families Bill

The House of Commons considered the Lords amendments to the Children and Families Bill last week and all the changes agreed to in the Lords were accepted without any controversy. The debate was dominated by public health issues. There was a division over the amendment to ban smoking in cars amendment, although Conservative and Liberal Democrat abstentions ensured that it passed without issue.

The Bill has been passed by both Houses and Royal Ascent is imminent. Parliamentary scrutiny will now focus on the SEN Code of Practice and the related regulations, which may be unveiled in the coming weeks.

Labour leader Ed Miliband announces that clinical commissioning groups would be retained if Labour wins election

Labour leader Ed Miliband has announced that should Labour win the election in 2015, they would retain clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) as key decision making bodies in the NHS, albeit in a reduced capacity.

In the annual Hugo Young Lecture, Miliband stated that health and wellbeing boards would become the pre-eminent decision-making bodies across the health and social care system, while CCGs would retain an advisory role. He stated that “no change could be proposed by a clinical commissioning group without patient representatives being involved in drawing up the plan”, and that when change is proposed, “it should be an independent body such as the health and wellbeing board that is charged with consulting with the local community”.

The vision laid out my Miliband re-enforces the announcement by Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham in February 2013, where he stated that although CCGs would not be scrapped, some of their powers, notably the responsibility for controlling NHS and social care budgets, would lie with health and wellbeing boards instead.

During his speech, Miliband discussed the importance of increasing local accountability rather than focusing on central control of health services; he did not directly address the question of whether Labour will look to reintroduce more central oversight of the NHS.

Weekly political news round up – Friday 7th February

February 7, 2014 in News by Whitehouse

Around the sector

The Daily Telegraph has reported the Education Secretary Michael Gove has decided not to renew Labour peer Baroness Morgan of Huyton’s term of office as chairman of Ofsted. Although she will not be able to serve a new term, her current one has been extended from February 2014 to the autumn of 2014. Gove’s decision to remove Baroness Morgan has led to widespread accusations she was ousted as part of a campaign of removing non-Tories from senior posts.

Update on the Children and Families Bill

The Children and Families Bill has passed through the House of Lords and will now return to the Commons on Monday 10th February with amendments. Most of those amendments are Government amendments so it is unlikely the Bill will be held-up in “ping pong”, where the Bill will be passed between two chambers between an agreement is finally reached. Only Government amendments were passed during Third Reading, while over the course of the Bill’s passage in the Lords two amendments were passed despite the Government not agreeing with them, although neither of these amendments related to the SEN clauses in Part 3 of the Bill and it is likely a compromise will be found in the Commons. During the Third Reading debate, the Government made key concessions to Part 3 on issues relating to social care, mediation, systemic accountability arrangements as well as to the youth justice clauses.

In regards to social care, Government spokesperson Baroness Northover brought forward an amendment to include the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act (CSDPA) 1970 in the Bill as a means of providing assurance that the EHC plan includes all the relevant social care services needed by disabled children. Government amendments to Clause 37 also now require that the EHC plan includes all services assessed as being needed for a disabled child or young person under 18, under Section 2 of the CSDPA, regardless of whether it relates to the learning difficulty or disability which gives rise to the SEN. The Government committed to ensuring that the SEN code of practice provides an explanation of the services under Section 2 of the CSDPA that must be included in the EHC plan, and explains the existing duties to provide those services, to give clarity and reassurance to both parents and practitioners. Northover made it clear that the Bill continues to require that any other social care provision which is reasonably required by the learning difficulty or disability that gives rise to the SEN must be included in the EHC plan, while it will also cover adult social care provision for young people aged 18 to 25 where a care plan is drawn up under provisions in the Care Bill.

Education Minister Lord Nash also introduced amendments to widen the disagreement resolution and mediation arrangements to cover health and social care. The arrangements will require the holding of a review of the complaints and redress arrangements for those with education, health and care needs, with the review including pilots to test the tribunal making recommendations about health and social care. The Government are also widening the disagreement resolution and mediation services that local authorities must make available so that when an assessment or reassessment is being carried out, or an EHC plan being drawn up or reviewed, parents and young people will be able to ask for disagreement resolution on health and social care complaints as well as on education complaints.

Notably the Government also introduced an Amendment which will require the Secretary of State and the Lord Chancellor to hold a review to look at how well the redress arrangements under the Bill are working. This will include the complaint arrangements relevant to children and young people with education, health and social care difficulties. The review will take account of the Francis and Clwyd reviews of complaints in the health service and will involve other organisations which have an interest, such as the tribunal, Healthwatch, the Local Government Ombudsman, the Health Service Ombudsman and Parent Carer Forums. The Secretary of State and the Lord Chancellor will be required to report back to Parliament within three years of the implementation of the SEN provisions making recommendations as to the future of redress and complaint arrangements, including recommendations on the role of the tribunal. Nash said that three years will allow sufficient time to build up the evidence on which to make recommendations but that a report could be made to Parliament earlier. However, Nash did say that there should be sufficient evidence by the summer of 2016, so the review would report no less than two years from the implementation of the Bill and no more than three years.

Department for Education announces consultation on supporting pupils at school with medical conditions

The Department for Education has announced a consultation on new draft statutory guidance aimed at supporting pupils at school with medical conditions in England. This guidance is being introduced as a consequence of new duties, outlined in the Children and Families Bill, which are likely to come into force in September 2014, requiring governing bodies of schools to make statutory arrangements to support pupils with medical conditions. This guidance also provides non-statutory advice for schools, local authorities, clinical commissioning groups, parents/carers and pupils, health service providers and other interested parties.

In general, the draft statutory guidance states that pupils at school with medical conditions should be properly supported so that they have full access to education, including school trips and physical education. Moreover, governing bodies must ensure that arrangements are in place in schools to support pupils at school with medical conditions. Finally, governing bodies should ensure that school leaders consult health and social care professionals, pupils and parents to ensure that the needs of children with medical conditions are effectively supported.

With regards to the PCF’s goals, the draft guidance recognises that:

  • Not only will pupils with long-term and/or complex medical conditions require on-going support, children may be bullied or develop emotional disorders around their medical condition that may impact on their educational attainment or ability to integrate with their peers.
  • Governing bodies should ensure that school policies clearly identify the roles and responsibilities of all those involved in the arrangements they make to support pupils at school with medical conditions.
  • Governing bodies should ensure that policies set out the procedures to be followed when a school is first notified that a pupil has a medical condition, and how long these should take. This should cover arrangements for staff training and should normally take no more than two weeks.
  • Governing bodies must ensure that schools do not “prevent pupils from drinking, eating or taking toilet or other breaks whenever they need to in order to manage their medical condition effectively”
  • With regards to staff training and support, policies should be clear that any member of school staff providing support to a pupil with medical needs should have received suitable training
  • Following discussion with parents, children who are competent in managing their own health needs should be allowed to carry their own medicines and relevant devices or should be able to access their medicines for self-medication, quickly and easily.

The consultation document itself asks a series of 15 questions, each of which relate to a section within the draft guidance.

The deadline for responses is Friday 14th March at 5.00 pm.

Survey by Association of Teachers and Lecturers highlights poor guidance for staff on childhood continence

The Daily Mail has reported that a survey conducted by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) of 277 nursery and primary school support staff found that staff were receiving inadequate advice on how to deal with pupils who suffered from childhood continence problems.

Only 31% of respondents said that their school has a written policy in place to deal with pupils wetting or soiling themselves during the school day. Furthermore 88% said that they had not received any training on how to deal with childhood continence issues. This is despite the vast majority – 81% – reporting that their school expects support staff to deal with children who have wet or soiled themselves, even though 70% of staff members stated that attending to children who have wet or soiled themselves is not actually part of their job description or employment contract.

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL, said that it was “worrying that such a high number of support staff have received no training in dealing with such issues” and that
“schools need to give staff clear guidance on how to deal with toileting accidents so they know what they are allowed to do and who should be dealing with an incident”.

Answer to written questions on the draft SEN Code of Practice

Shadow Children and Families Minister Steve McCabe has received an answer to two written questions asking the Education Secretary:

  1. What plans he has to discuss the draft Special Education Needs Code of Practice with disability charities and other stakeholders before publication of the final version;
  2. For what reason the definition of progress in Chapter six of the draft Special Education Needs Code of Practice no longer includes improvements in self-help, social and personal skills.

Responding, Children and Families Minister Edward Timpson said that the Department for Education had recently consulted publicly on the draft SEN Code of Practice, and that revisions were being made to the Code of Practice to take account of developments during the passage of the Children and Families Bill and responses to the consultation, which were from a wide range of organisations in the statutory and voluntary and community sectors, including those in the SEN and disability field. He added that they would continue to work with those who must have regard to the Code of Practice and those who support children, young people and families as this is taken forward.