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£80 million to boost support for special educational needs

s300_FLR-Young-boy-in-wheelchair-and-blocksA multi-million pound package ensuring thousands of children with special educational needs and disability (SEND) have the same opportunities as any other child has been announced yesterday (29 January 2016).

Children and Families Minister Edward Timpson said the £80 million would help transform the life chances of children across the country and ensure every child, regardless of the challenges they face, can ‘dream big’ and fulfil their potential.

As part of its mission to extend opportunity to all, the government has already introduced the biggest reforms to the SEND support system in a generation by placing children and their families at the heart of the system.

Today’s announcement will increase funding for councils and support charities who work with some of the most vulnerable young people in the country. Alongside this, the government is continuing transition funding in 2017 to 2018 to help implement the reforms introduced in 2014, building on the progress so far.

Thanks to the government’s reforms, for the first time ever the needs of children with complex SEND are all set out in one education, health and care (EHC) plan. It also means that councils are legally required to take the views of families into account when deciding on what support to offer.

Children and Families Minister Edward Timpson said:

Our vision for children with special educational needs and disability is simple: that their aspirations are as high any other young person, that they dream big, achieve well at school and college, and lead fulfilling, happy lives.

We’ve made fundamental changes to the law to provide that support and the work I’ve seen so far, putting families at the heart of the process, is inspiring – but we know there is still more to do to.

I’m delighted that today we can announce that we are committing more money to councils than last year, helping to make the transition for families accessing support as smooth as possible.

The funding announced today includes:

  • £35.8 million in implementation funding for local authorities in 2016 to 2017, recognising the additional duties placed on them as a result of the transition to EHC plans – an increase of £4 million on last year
  • £27.3 million for the Family Fund Trust in 2016 to 2017 to support low income families with disabled children – they provide small scale grants, enabling them to make specific purchases and offering short respite breaks
  • £15 million to fund the independent supporters programme in 2016 to 2017, run by the Council for Disabled Children – this is a crucial catalyst for change, helping to support families and young people to navigate the system, and creating overwhelmingly positive experiences for them
  • £2.3 million for Parent Carer Forums in 2016 to 2017, who bring parents together to provide invaluable support and advice for families

In addition, the government is also pledging to fund this work for an additional year in 2017 to 2018, to ensure we see through the transition to the new system by April 2018.

Christine Lenehan OBE, Director of the Council for Disabled Children, said:

We welcome the government’s continued investment in the SENDreforms, which is evidence of its commitment to fully embedding the new system.

These 4 grants demonstrate the partnerships required to deliver the new reforms and generate the best possible outcomes for children, young people and their families.

Maureen Morris is co-chair and a regional representative for the National Network of Parent Carer Forums. Her daughter Caitlin, 22, was paired with an independent supporter who helped her work through her anxiety. She said:

The independent supporters programme has been spectacularly successful and I’m very pleased that the funding will continue. Caitlin has complex needs and her independent supporter came to the house, took the time to get to know her, and took her out for coffee. She got her to talk about her aspirations and about things that even I didn’t know were important to her.

It’s vital that children and young people have their voices heard – not just their parents’ – and the key thing about independent supporters is that they keep a cool head. Simply by being there, they make a difference.

Maureen’s story mirrors that of many other families who have benefited from the assistance of independent supporters, who are now placed in every local area.

Today, the first independent evaluation of the programme has been published by the National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTi), commissioned by the Department for Education.

It finds that independent supporters are acting as a catalyst for change, embedding the reforms and creating positive, powerful relationships with families accessing support – further driving our commitment to ensuring this vital service continues.

Cheryl Ward, Chief Executive of the Family Fund Trust, said:

We are grateful to the Department for Education for their continuing commitment to funding this vital support for families raising disabled or seriously ill children.

Last year, this funding helped 54,225 families through support that was tailored to their circumstances – the highest number in our 43 year history. We are committed to make our funding go as far as possible in the coming year, relieving some of the challenges our families face on a day to day basis.

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