Earlier this week MPs debated the Government’s proposals for the biggest overhaul of the Special Educational Needs (SEN) system for a generation. Before the debate, hundreds of NAS campaigners wrote to their MP asking them to speak in the debate and support improving the SEN system, stressing the urgent need for change.
The changes, which are being introduced as part of the Children and Families Bill include:
- replacement of Statements with new Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP)
- new duties on local authorities and NHS bodies to work together to commission services
- extension of the system to cover young people in further education up to the age of 25.
We have been campaigning, alongside other organisations, to make sure the new system leads to real improvements for children with autism and their families and delivers on the Government’s promise to end parents’ battle for support.
As a result, the Government has already made a number of changes to its original proposals:
- parents have a specific right to request a statutory assessment
- parents can name an independent special school on an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP - the successor to Statements), which is particularly important for children with the most complex needs
- parents wanting to appeal the Local Authority’s decision about a Plan will have the option to use mediation, but can choose not to
- Education Health and Care Plans can be accessed by young people with autism who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) and those in apprenticeships, as well as those who are in further education.
During the debate, Edward Timpson MP, Under-Secretary of State for Education said:
The Bill will…give children and young people with special educational needs and their families better co-ordinated support, and more choice and control over how that support is provided.
Every measure in the Bill is driven by one simple objective: our determination to improve the outcomes for all children and families in our society, whatever their start in life and whoever they may be.
There is still time to influence MPs as the Bill reaches the committee stage where they will undertake line-by-line scrutiny of the proposals. Please write to your MP about the challenges faced by children and young people with autism and what you think needs to change.
You can read the whole debate here.