Personal budgets and special educational needs

May 16th, 2012 by Joe Barrett

The Government has published its formal response to the public consultation on its green paper, Support and Aspiration.

The main elements include: 

  • Commencing in 2014, replacing SEN statements and separate learning difficulty assessments (for older children) with a single, birth to 25 years assessment process and education, health and care plan. Parents with such plans would have the right to a personal budget. 
  • All families including a child with an approved education, health and care plan will have a legal right to request a personal budget, if they choose. Parents will be able to purchase the SEN support identified in the plan. Parents will be given a choice of whether to take control of the personal budget by agencies managing the funds on their behalf or, where appropriate, by receiving direct payments, if they are suitable, to purchase and manage the provision themselves. 
  • Providing statutory protections comparable to those currently associated with a statement of SEN to up to 25-years-old in further education – instead of such support ceasing at the age of 16. 
  • Measures to require ‘joined-up’ working between local authorities and health authorities. 
  • A new legal right for children to seek a place at state academies and Free Schools.

The Government’s intention is that the reforms will be enacted in the Children and Families Bill announced in last week’s Queen’s Speech.

Channeling the spirit of the former Home Secretary the Rt. Hon Dr John Reid, Children’s Minister Sarah Teather declared that the current SEN system is ‘not fit for purpose’ and that the proposed reforms will ‘put parents in charge’.

A number of charities and unions have expressed concern that the reforms are primarily intended to tighten the SEN criteria so as to reduce the number of children entitled to SEN support and open the provision of SEN services to commercial competition. It seems tolerably clear that the proposals do pursue these twin objectives.