Weekly political news round up – 11th July 2014

July 11, 2014 in News by Whitehouse

Around the sector

Conservative MP Robert Jenrick has been appointed as a member of the Health Select Committee. Jenrick was elected as an MP in June 2014 and does not have a background in health.

The SEND Code of Practice will be scrutinised by a Delegated Legislation Committee (DLC) on Thursday 17th July. This is the last step in the legislative process for the SEND reforms.  A DLC is a general committee of the House of Commons that allows for debate of a statutory instrument. It does not approve or reject delegated legislation; rather a vote is taken on the legislation in the House.

The debate in the House of Lords was rescheduled and will now take place in the Grand Committee on Monday 21st July at 3.30pm.

NHS chief executive discusses plan to give patients financial control of their own care

New NHS chief executive Simon Stevens has discussed the introduction of a new Integrated Personal Commissioning (IPC) programme designed to extend the provision of personal health budgets to include a wider group of patients with specific health needs. From April 2015, people with long term conditions (including frail elderly people), children with complex needs, people with learning difficulties, and people with severe and enduring mental health problems will be offered personal health budgets to spend as they see fit on health and social care services.

Personal health budgets, which had previously only been available to a small group of patients eligible for NHS Continuing Care, allow patients to purchase health and social care services in the community. Patients will receive anywhere from a few hundred points to in excess of £1000, with those with very complex needs receiving more than that. Patients would not automatically receive cash payments into their bank accounts but would control the budget, which will be provided after a care plan is agreed with their doctors.

Plans to extend the scheme, which is intended to increase patient power and reduce long term expenditure, have been in development for some time. The Children and Families Act 2014 already legislated that children who hold an education, health and care plan will be able to access a personal health budget.

Stevens said that the new budgets will only be made available if local councils and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) agree to work together to fund them. Although participation is voluntary, he said he expects both bodies to set aside their usual mutual suspicion over which of them should pay for what elements of care needs.

NHS England will now work with partners in local government, CCGs, patient groups and the voluntary sector to develop an IPC Prospectus which will be published at the end of July. This will formally invite local expressions of interest in jointly developing and participating in the IPC programme from April 2015.

Parliamentary inquiry into childcare for disabled children publishes report criticising existing provision

The Parliamentary Inquiry into Childcare for Disabled Children has published a report revealing that disabled children are being denied educational and social opportunities. The inquiry was co-chaired by Conservative MP Robert Buckland and Labour MP Pat Glass, and was supported by Every Disabled Child Matters, Contact a Family, the Family and Childcare Trust and Working Families.

The inquiry focused on affordability, availability and inclusion, quality, and access and information.

Affordability

The inquiry found that parents of children with disabilities are charged higher than average fees for childcare, resulting in many parent carers giving up work. Moreover, the inquiry found that adequate funding is often not available to parent carers or providers to support the extra costs of high needs or one-to-one support for disabled children.

Availability and inclusion

According to the report, providers had poor support to access additional training, resources and physical adaptations. In terms of policy provision, the inquiry found that the sufficiency duty in the Childcare Act 2006, which required local authorities to secure sufficient childcare for working parents, did not compensate for the market’s problems with providing childcare for disabled children.

Quality

From the evidence collected, it was found that there was a significant shortfall of knowledge, skills and confidence in providing quality care and education to disabled children in the childcare and early years workforce, with 33% of parent carers responding that the lack of experienced staff was the reason for not accessing childcare. In policy terms, there was criticism that there was a “lack of focus” on ensuring that early years practitioners had the professional qualifications and guidance to deliver the best outcomes for disabled children.

Access and information

The inquiry found that parents sometimes engaged in a three way dialogue with their local authority for additional support. It also found parent carers were confused about what support they could expect, and local authorities were confused about what the childcare system should deliver for disabled children and young people.

Recommendations

The inquiry made three overarching recommendations:

A cross-departmental review of funding to identify where support must be improved to meet the extra costs of childcare for disabled children and remove barriers to access, followed by pilots of flexible approaches to delivering support.

  • The introduction of a requirement for local authorities to publish as part of the SEND Local Offer clear information for parents and providers on access to childcare inclusion support.
  • Making clear that all eligible disabled children aged two, three and four can access their full 15 hours of free early education and clarify the arrangements for redress for parents.