Children and young adults with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), and their families, are to have greater control and choice over the support they receive.
West Sussex County Council is working closely with parents and carers to prepare for the reforms which affect children and young people from 0-25 years. The changes will come into effect in September 2014 as part of the government’s Children and Families Act.
For many the current system is bureaucratic and confusing, and does not offer the information they need to choose the best services. They also have to navigate each area of their support, such as education, health and social care, separately.
The reforms will see a new single assessment process introduced for children with the most complex needs, and Statements of Special Educational Need will be replaced by Education, Health and Care Plans.
Services will work with families to agree these straightforward plans, bringing together all elements of their SEND support, and be regularly reviewed to ensure it is meeting the child or young person’s needs. In some cases the new plans could run until 25 years of age – the current Statements stop at 19.
Local authorities must also publish a ‘Local Offer’, which contains full details of the complete range of services available to families in the local area. The Council has been working with the West Sussex Parent Carer Forum to ensure that its Local Offer includes the information that families need, and in a format they want, so that they can make the right choices for their child and give them the best possible start in life.
The West Sussex Local Offer will be available through a dedicated website containing information about education, health, care services, leisure activities, short breaks and support groups. It will launch in September to coincide with the changes, and is the result of numerous conversations and workshops with parents and carers, who have given valuable insight and feedback to help shape the website and the information it contains.
The Local Offer will continue to develop over the coming year, and the website will be updated as services continue to evolve.
Peter Evans, West Sussex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children – Start of Life, said: “The upcoming changes are a positive step for families whose children have special educational needs or disabilities. The aim is to put them firmly at the heart of the process, and to ensure that they feel included and informed every step of the way whilst plans are put in place to ensure that their child has the best possible start in life.
“The Local Offer is a big step in the right direction and will bring together all the information that families need in one easy-to-access place. We have worked closely with parents and carers to develop the website, and ensure that it meets their very specific needs.”
The County Council, in partnership with the West Sussex Parent Carer Forum, has produced a leaflet which sets out the upcoming changes and what will be available through the Local Offer. Copies are available from GP surgeries, libraries and the County Council’s Children and Family Centres across West Sussex. They can also be requested through the Parent Partnership Service helpline on 0845 075 1008 or by email from firstname.lastname@example.org.
Information on the Local Offer can also be found on the Local Offer web page.