I am pleased to announce the publication today of “Support and aspiration: A new approach to special educational needs and disability—progress and next steps”, the Government’s response to the consultation on the special educational needs and disability Green Paper. Copies will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
As well as setting out the Government’s response to the consultation it sets out the progress made and the next steps in taking forward the proposals in the Green Paper. A separate summary report of the consultation responses is being published on the Department for Education’s website at the same time.
The Government set out in the Green Paper their vision for improving the education and life outcomes of children and young people who are disabled or have special educational needs and our proposals for improving the support that they and their families receive. There has been keen interest in the Green Paper and strong support for our proposed reforms. Almost 2,400 responses were received to the consultation from a wide range of individuals and organisations. I am grateful to everyone who took the time to reply for their thoughtful and informed responses.
The Government are committed to achieving the ambitious programme in the Green Paper. Progress has been made in taking forward the commitments made. But there is more to do. We owe it to the children, young people and families who get a poor deal from the current system, and to those who work with and support them, to make sure we get those changes right. That is why we have established 20 local pathfinders involving local authorities and their local health partners who are testing out the reforms and building the knowledge and skills that will be needed for their successful implementation.
The practice developed by the pathfinders will be shared widely with other local areas. An interim evaluation of the pathfinders will be published by October 2012, with a final evaluation report following in 2013.
The Queen’s Speech announced the Government’s intention to bring forward legislation in the current session of Parliament to take forward the Green Paper reforms. These changes are vital for children, young people and families and we need to begin the legislative process in the current session in order to meet the commitments given in the Green Paper.
Our aim is to publish a draft Bill in the summer which would be informed by early lessons learned from the pathfinders. There would then be further opportunities for lessons learned from the pathfinders to inform the pre-legislative scrutiny stage and the Bill itself. Our intention remains, subject to Parliament’s approval, to implement the reforms from 2014. Lessons learned from the pathfinders and evaluation of their activity will inform how the reforms are implemented.
The Bill would include provision for:
Every local authority to develop and publish a local offer of support for children, young people and families—including from early years settings, schools and colleges and the voluntary sector and from health and social care services;
A new, single assessment process and education, health and care plan from birth to 25 with arrangements comparable to statements for young people over 16—whether they are in school or at college—this is a significant change and will help us to get better transitions to adult life, independence and the world of work;
All families with an education, health and care plan to be offered a personal budget for their support;
Ensuring that services for disabled children and young people and those with special educational needs are planned and commissioned jointly by local authorities and clinical commissioning groups and that there are clear duties on all of the agencies involved, building on the reforms to the health services introduced by the Health and Social Care Act 2012 and drawing on the recommendations of the Children and Young People’s Health Outcomes Forum;
Parents to have the right to express a preference for any state funded school, including academies and free schools, and have their preference considered under the same criteria as for maintained schools;
Families to try mediation before they appeal to the tribunal;
And it will seek a power to trial giving children the right to appeal to the tribunal.
We are working across Government and with our local and national partners to put the reforms in place, drawing on the findings from the pathfinder programme.