Weekly political news round up – 11th April 2014

April 11, 2014 in News by Whitehouse

Around the sector

Children and Young People Now has reported that officials from the early years sector have criticised Sir Michael Wilshaw, the head of Ofsted, for claiming that childcare providers are failing to meet the needs of disadvantaged children. Anne Longfield, Chief Executive of 4Children, responded that it was “simplistic and misguided to suggest that all children will be better served by the provision of formal education in schools from two”, adding that children need “nurturing environment where [they] are able to play and learn”.

Mencap and Every Disabled Child Matters (EDCM) have issued a public statement expressing concerns that the final SEN Code of Practice will have few changes from the draft guidance, despite previously stating that the guidance “is not fit for purpose”. The warning follows the publication of a letter from Children’s Minister Edward Timpson instructing schools to use the draft guidance to prepare for the changes to the SEN system.

Answer to written question on continence care

Labour MP Jim Dobbin has received an answer to his written question asking the Health Secretary what steps he is taking to ensure that continence care products are provided on the basis of clinical need.

Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb responded that clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) are responsible for commissioning continence services for their local populations and performance managing their providers in the delivery of high quality services.

He added that NHS England is responsible for the commissioning of specialised continence services and has produced a number of service specifications on various types of incontinence, defining what is expected to be in place for providers to offer evidenced-based, safe and effective services. The service specifications published by NHS England include: “Colorectal services: faecal Incontinence (adults)” (which has a focus on surgical solutions), and “Complex Gynaecology: Recurrent prolapse and urinary incontinence”.

He concluded that the Department expected providers of continence care products to take into account any relevant National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidance on the management of incontinence.

Department for Education and Department of Health publish guidance on the implementation of SEND reforms

The Department for Education and the Department of Health have jointly published guidance for local authorities and health partners on the implementation of special educational needs and disability (SEND) reforms introduced by the Children and Families Act 2014. It sets out a timeline for implementation, summarises information on local readiness, and provides answers to some frequently asked questions.

Key dates are laid out in the guidance. In terms of legislation and the broader context, the following dates are relevant:

  • Late spring 2014: the SEN Code of Practice will be published for Parliamentary approval.
  • Spring 2014: New burdens allocations for local authorities announced.
  • April 2014 – March 2015: SEND Reform Grant provides additional money to local authorities in 2014-15 (within Early Intervention Grant).
  • April 2014 – March 2015: support available to local authorities from SEND advisors, pathfinder champions, and CDC strategic partner and specialist delivery partners.

In terms of local implementation, the following dates are relevant:

  • April 2014 – September 2015: local authorities involve partners and parents in planning for implementation and delivery of the reformed system
  • From September 2014: local offers published following consultation; joint commissioning duty commences; new assessment and planning starts (for new entrants); personal budgets offered as part of Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans; mediation arrangements in place; local authorities should publish plans for EHC plan transfers.
  • September 2014 – September 2016: young people with Learning Difficulty Assessments (LDAs) transfer to the new system.
  • September 2014 – April 2018: children and young people with statements of SEN transfer to the new system.

The guidance provide a useful simple overview of the reforms – especially how 18-25s will be supported, how they work in tandem with the Care Bill over the transition to adult support and how young offenders will be supported under the provisions.

Most significantly, the guidance for local authorities and health partners issues an unprecedented directive saying that health bodies are obliged to advise parents of children with complex needs of the educational support available to them in early years settings. Paragraph 28 states:

“Where complex developmental and/or sensory needs are identified at birth or in the very early years through regular health checks, which mean a young child under compulsory school age has or will have SEND, the health body must inform the parent, discuss it with them, and let them know about any voluntary organisations that are likely to be able to provide advice or assistance. This includes the educational advice, guidance and intervention to be put in place early and before the child starts school. The health body must also draw that child to the attention of the appropriate local authority, who must then consider whether the issue is sufficiently complex and long term that an EHC plan assessment is appropriate.”

This directive means that education and voluntary and community service providers now may legitimately approach their local NHS and insist that they let parents know about the services they provide for young children with complex needs. This will mean that parents can ensure that their children receive crucial support that they may not otherwise be aware of.

The guidance also states that from September 2014, two-year-olds with EHC plans, statements of SEN or that are eligible for Disability Living Allowance will be entitled to 570 hours per year of funded early education. The Department for Education is currently consulting on the guidance for delivering this entitlement.

Little detail is provided in the guidance on how personal budgets will work in practice. It is stated that as part of their local offer, local authorities will be responsible for setting out a local policy for personal budgets, including how that funding will be made available, as well as the eligibility criteria and the decision making processes than underpin them. It is unlikely that personal budgets will be rolled out on any significant level as the Government has been unable to find a process that enables them to work in practice, which is consistent with attempts to introduce personal budgets through the health and welfare reforms.