This chapter focuses on early identification and assessment.
Para 1.2 “Too often, the particular support that children and their families require is put in place needlessly late. Although some impairments are normally identified at birth or soon after, other types of need emerge as children grow up. Not knowing why children are developing differently can be tremendously stressful for the child and for their parents. And even when needs have been identified, parents tell us that it can feel like a struggle to get the right support for their family from education, health and social care services. It can be slow and complicated, with different services working in isolation and each having its own approach.”
Features of new system:
- assessment of development by health professionals (HVs) and early years professionals – identify where additional support is needed
- Early years education and child care available and accessible to all
- Replace Statement of SEN with Education, Health and Care Plan – single assessment process – same statutory protection as statement
Plan is to reduce over-assessment, but unclear exactly how this will be achieved. Presumably some assessments that effectively duplicate each other can be removed. A common Plan that can be used as basis for the different types of input would be useful, but difficult to envisage various agencies accepting each others conclusions, especially if costs involved. Currently with more complex situations, health, education and social care have to plan together – and can take months to come to a conclusion – how will this be improved in practice?
Note mention of efficient use of public funds in para 1.48 – how much of the think is about saving money and how much about providing a quality service to needy children and their families?
Voluntary and community sector role placed in context of finances – I find that worrying as perpetuates myth that voluntary sector is cheap or free. Specific roles identified for voluntary and community sector:
- providing information on assessment process – preparing parents on what to expect
- Advocacy for families
- Supporting families through the assessment process
- Putting support package together that reflects family needs, circumstances and ambitions
So a mixture of support, advocacy and direct services, but no indication of who is paying.
Quite a lot about short breaks which seems to be a variation on respite care. Given this was one of our initial requests that was never fulfilled, I do wonder how likely this is to happen, especially if aim continues to be to provide this through a pseudo-fostering arrangement rather than in specialist facilities.
The emphasis in this section is really on those children with most complex needs, effectively the 2% who currently are statemented. It is unclear whether this helps in any way those children who are currently on school action or school action plus and who would be subject to a single level of school SEN assessment.
- Position of those children whose needs are not complex enough to be dealt with under new assessment arrangements, but at the same time are not trivial.
- The practicality of an assessment by Health, Education and Social Care – and getting all to agree – but good if can be made to work and can include DLA/PIP
- The implicit and explicit expectation that this will reduce duplication and therefore save money
- Lack of realism about true costs of voluntary and community sector involvement
- The practicality of short breaks – desirable but how achievable?