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.

Alert me about debates like this

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

My Lords, I am grateful for the noble Baroness’s comments and her support for the scheme. Extension of the scheme will allow families to continue to benefit from SEN direct payments and refine our knowledge right up to the point when our reforms come into force.

So far as ensuring that direct payments do not affect other services, paragraph 11(c) of Schedule 1 requires local authorities to consider the impact on services for other users before they can agree an individual arrangement. We do not have any evidence from the pilot that this has been an issue. We will take forward similar protections in regulations to be made under Clause 49 of the Children and Families Bill. The noble Baroness is quite right that, so far, transport has been the main area that direct payments have been used in. However, it is early days and it is inevitable that people will be slow to take this up. It is also clear that there are many other areas where people have benefited. In addition to allowing transition and continuing the scheme for those people who have already taken it up, it is important to continue with the learning.

I entirely agree with the noble Baroness about making sure that we achieve value for money for the taxpayer. My conversations with local authorities in relation to both the local offer and direct payments have so far been surprisingly positive in the sense that some people may have thought that allowing more flexibility would increase costs. Allowing a more discursive and inclusive arrangement for this kind of provision seems in many cases to have led to less contention and therefore less costs.

Measures for accountability and quality control will be taken forward under regulations to be made under the Children and Families Bill. For example, the EHC plan must set out details of the needs and outcomes to be met by a personal budget and the arrangements for any use of direct payments, including for services, the amount and frequency of the payments, and the arrangements for review. As with the pilot scheme, Clause 49 will require a review of the use of direct payments at least once within three months of the direct payments being made, at the end of the first year, and at appropriate intervals thereafter not exceeding 12 months.

We will have further opportunities to debate SEN direct payments and personal budgets more generally when we scrutinise regulations to be made under the personal budgets provisions in the Children and Families Bill. With that, I hope that we can agree the order.

Motion agreed.