The minister for children and families, Sarah Teather, outlined the proposed reforms which she said this would prevent parents being forced to go from “pillar to post” in a battle between different authorities and agencies.
It is estimated that 21% of children in England are identified as having SEN – 21% of the school population in January 2010. Only 2.7% have statements. More than half of the pupils, 11.4%, are in the school action category.
Janet, who is organising an SEN conference next month for families and professionals, Towards a Positive Future, said:
“Although I welcome health education and social care being legally forced to work together, and I welcome parents having more control over who provides the special education needs provision for their child, I am concerned that the amount of money that will be put into the personal budget will not in reality be enough for them to be able to access the services that they need.
“I also think that there isn’t visibility for the general public, parents or local authorities as to who is available locally to be commissioned to work with individual children. I am also sure that the information that needs to be given to parents isn’t currently readily available, and also that living with a child with special educational needs takes an awful lot of time.
“At the moment many parents have direct payments in order to pay for respite, but have to prepare accounts which takes a lot of time and local authorities get very upset if you don’t provide them with quarterly accounts. If you pay for someone else to do your accounts, that money has to come out of your child’s respite. So it is really difficult for parents who haven’t got the time or these skills to take on board yet another job when all they want to do is be a parent to their child.
“In theory, the plan is a really good idea, but what is needed is for key workers to be allocated to take this work on and manage this budget on behalf of parents, just like they do for head injured children who get compensation and a trust fund set up which is managed by a case manager, and that system works very well and takes the pressure off the family, whereas this system appears to be putting more pressure on families to take on another role that takes up more of their time.”
Tickets are still available for Janet’s conference on Saturday, 16 June in Newbury, where speakers include actress Jane Asher, president of the Autistic Society. Full booking details can be found here.