Special Educational Needs (Direct Payments) (Pilot Scheme) (Extension and Amendment) Order 2014 — Motion to Approve

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:20 pm on 27 January 2014.

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Photo of Lord Nash Lord Nash The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education 8:20, 27 January 2014

My Lords, this order enables the Secretary of State to extend and amend the pilot scheme made under the Special Educational Needs (Direct Payments) (Pilot Scheme) Order 2012 that allows the testing of direct payments for SEN provision in the SEN pathfinder areas. The pilot scheme has demonstrated the potential for SEN direct payments to make a positive—“life-changing”, to quote one parent—impact on families. I have seen first hand the benefits that direct payments can bring. When I visited the Hertfordshire pathfinder I met another parent who used a direct payment to pay for a personal assistant to take her disabled child swimming, allowing her to focus on spending time with her other child. Other examples of the use of direct payments are for transport, one-to-one learning when the child is not well enough to travel to school, personal assistants coming into the classroom or the purchase of equipment. It is this choice and innovation that we are bringing to SEN provision and why, as noble Lords will be aware, we have taken forward the learning from the pilot in provisions for personal budgets in the Children and Families Bill.

The Bill is now reaching the end of its journey through your Lordships’ House and through Parliament so it is important to set out why it is also necessary to amend and extend this pilot scheme. There are two key reasons. First, extension is necessary to allow the arrangements established with families under the pilot to continue until the provisions in the Children and Families Bill are commenced. Extension will also provide a transitional period, up to the end of September 2015, to move these families from statements on to the new system of education, health and care plans and the associated offer of a personal budget that entails. As I have already said, many of the families that have taken advantage of the scheme have seen real benefits. Failure to extend the order would mean that these families would need to revert to more traditional, and in their cases, less effective forms of service delivery.

Secondly, the extension will allow the authorities named in the order to enter into new arrangements with families and refine how best to operate SEN direct payments right up to the point of implementation of the reform programme. This will ensure that we have the best possible evidence base ahead of implementation. It will inform both the work of the personal budget champions and the thematic evaluation of personal budgets, including direct payments, being undertaken as part of the evaluation of the pathfinder programme and due to be published in the summer. Removal of the right to request a direct payment under paragraph 3 of the schedule to the 2012 order after 31 August 2014 will provide for the formal closure of the pilot to new entrants from 1 September 2014. I should stress that all other articles in the pilot scheme remain unaltered.

To conclude, this is a simple transitional provision that bridges the gap between the end of the pilot scheme as set out in the 2012 order and the introduction of the reforms as set out in the Children and Families Bill. As such, I hope that noble Lords will give it their support.