Following the Royal Assent of the Care and Families Bill, the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign has written to the Secretary of State for Education, the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, to ensure the needs of children with complex disabilities are adequately addressed in the new Special Education Needs (SEN) reforms.
These reforms ─ known as Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) ─ will be rolled out across the country from September, and will replace the old SEN Statementing system. Children who have an existing SEN Statement will be moved over to the new system over the next three years.
The final code of practice for these Plans will be agreed upon shortly before they come into force in September.
As a charity that advocates on behalf of children with complex neuromuscular conditions, we have noted discrepancies in the schemes that have been piloted throughout England. Key elements of the EHC planning pathways have differed between pilot areas in terms of:
the amount of information gathered at the referral stage
the extent of choice a family has over who their EHC plan co-ordinator is
whether the plan is written with a 'Team Around the Child' approach (by their multi-disciplinary team) or drafted by the co-ordinator following the assessment
how plans are approved
the step-down process used for children and young people who were not felt to require an EHC plan
Furthermore, some children who would have benefited greatly from a more integrated approach that an EHC plan would offer, are in effect being turned away.
The Muscular Dystrophy Campaign is campaigning to clarify these guidelines and have urged the government to make sure these criteria are met - particularly in the co-ordination of health, social, and educational authorities within the planning framework. In this way, children with complex disabilities will not miss out on this vital care and support.
If you have any questions, or would like to find out more about Education, Health and Care Plans, please get in touch with Shivani Handa, Campaigns, Advocacy and Information Officer, on 020 7803 4808 or firstname.lastname@example.org