I hope you had a good break.
In this update you will find sections entitled:
As I always say, I know how busy everyone is, so please feel free to read just the sections that are of interest to you or read everything; the choice is always yours.
(To ensure you never miss one, you can get my updates by email, by completing your details at the bottom of this page or by using our Social Media links)
MY NEW WEBINAR:
‘WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW (THE NEW SEN FRAMEWORK’)
It’s now been just over seven months/two terms since the implementation of the new SEN framework, that was brought into legal effect on 1 September 2014, as a result of both the Children and Families Act 2014 and the new SEND Code of Practice.
In fact, there is now already a new Code of Practice that came into effect on 1 April 2015 which you can find here.
Whilst everybody has been trying their best during these past few months, I am afraid that there still are many conflicting things happening. For example, now that there is more ‘localism’, every Local Authority (LA) seems to be doing something slightly differently to the next regarding the Education, Health and Care (EHC) needs assessment process, or when transferring Statements of SEN to EHC plans; usually using their own ‘interpretation’ of what the law says and what they should do.
Ironically, each LA is often entirely convinced that what they are doing is right and that everyone else is wrong or treading on the legal borderline of doing things. Also, parents in one LA are being told one thing, whereas parents in another LA are being told something else. This is not only confusing many parents, but is also confusing a lot of professionals.
So, I have decided to see if I can help everyone out again. As you may know, over the Autumn and Spring Terms of 2014/15 (i.e. the last two terms) I have been providing training about the new SEN framework to lots of people, by either being requested to go into organisations personally to train their staff ‘in-house’ or by running my own training days at my offices for smaller groups of individuals.
However, as I will now not be providing any further training days at my offices until the Autumn Term 2015/16 (although I am still being booked to deliver training ‘in-house’ during the Summer term where my diary allows), I have decided to try and clarify things for everyone.
So, in case you couldn't make it, I am now putting on weekly one-hour webinars over the Summer Term 2014/15 entitled ‘What You Need To Know (The New SEN Framework)’ (at the moment they are going to run on Thursday and Sunday mornings at 9am or evenings on those days at 9pm - a recording will also be available ‘on demand’ if you cannot wait for it!)
I have written the webinar based on my full training so that it, hopefully, comprehensively outlines what parents of children/young people with SEN or professionals working with them need to know about the new SEN framework. It is also CPD-accredited for one-hour for those who need it.
I have done things in this way as I know that many people were unable to attend my training days or get to see me speak at other events due to a number of differing reasons (e.g. geographical distance or time restraints etc.)
I have also done things in this way as I wanted to make things accessible for everyone – you can now get my training on a computer at home or work, or even on the move by using a phone or tablet! (There is also a transcript for anyone with a hearing impairment).
And the best bit - I have also decided to offer this webinar for free! This is because I want everyone to be able to see it, no matter what their means or circumstances. All I ask in return is that, if you do watch it and it helps you, you also tell other people about it and direct them to it so they can watch it themselves.
You can register for the webinar right now by going to:
'What You Need to Know [The New SEN Framework]' (Webinar)
I have also learnt from from doing my training that many people are still very confused about some things, like the procedural/substantive requirements of transferring Statements into EHC plans, the legal requirements for EHC needs assessments, or what should actually be where in the plans themselves - especially the ‘Outcomes’ section.
I have therefore already decided that I will be writing/running a new training presentation in the Autumn in relation to these topics, as well as covering other things (such as the requirements of the new Code of Practice 2015/the Care Act/SEND Tribunal Practice and Procedure etc. - see more below regarding the last two things).
SEND TRIBUNAL UPDATE
As everyone knows, sometimes there are disputes about a child’s/young person’s SEN which cannot be resolved amicably and there therefore needs to be an appeal brought to the SEND Tribunal.
I was fortunate enough to recently share a platform with the current ‘judicial lead’ of the SEND Tribunal, Judge Meleri Tudur (who a few months ago was also appointed Deputy President of the Health, Care & Social Chamber of the First-tier Tribunal in October last year). Judge Tudur spoke at the Jordan’s Annual SEN Conference in London at the end of March, where she gave an update on the work of the SEND Tribunal to a large audience made up mainly of professionals representing parents/schools/LAs.
(I also want to use this opportunity to publicly congratulate my good friend and professional colleague, Jane McConnell, the current Chief Executive of the charity, IPSEA, who has been appointed to Tribunal Judge and the new judicial lead in the SEND Tribunal, who will be taking up her new position in June 2015.
Jane has been a fantastic advocate for upholding the rights of children with SEN for many years (and is herself a mother of a young person with complex SEN) who is widely respected alike by parents/those representing parents and professionals (both working for parents and LAs). I am sure that Jane will soon become a great asset to the Tribunal and will ensure ‘fair play’ during the coming years when it comes to resolving disputes in Tribunal appeals (although I am going to have to get used to calling her 'Tribunal Judge McConnell'!)
When she spoke, Judge Tudur gave us lots of information, including up to date statistics on Tribunal Appeals. She also talked about changes in procedure, amongst other things. She discussed things like the increasing use of two-person Tribunal panels and, although we know that Tribunal appeals about secondary transfers are now expedited (e.g. heard more quickly) over 12 weeks, she said that this year they would be hearing post-16 appeals in just seven weeks and, if necessary, the Tribunal would agree to sit in August.
One of the most important things is for LAs to be aware that they now need to issue Tribunal Bundles for appeals regarding EHC needs assessments/plans and send them out in good time before a hearing otherwise they will now automatically be barred from attending the hearing.
Given that many people have been struggling with EHC assessments/transfers/plans over the past few months and, given also that there are now these requirements and very short timescales now, I am worried that there may be insufficient time/ability practically to handle appeals properly. I hope that I am wrong.
I was also lucky enough, a few days later, to be able to attend (as part of a much smaller audience this time, again mainly professionals) an Open Day at the SEND Tribunal’s offices in Darlington where administrative staff told us more about the way they work and asked for our feedback as users.
It was very informative to be able to visit the Tribunal offices and meet administrative staff there and I was surprised to see such a small team having to do so many things, but who clearly had a lot of enthusiasm for the work that they do and genuinely want to help everyone and improve continually.
I also appreciated the fact that they gave so many practical tips about how to help them help others using them. Even simple things like sending documents through single-sided (to make it easier for them to photocopy) and using email wherever possible (and not sending in hard copies of things already faxed or sent by email). I want to express my thanks here to them all for a most informative and enjoyable day.
As what was said to people on both of these occasions is probably not only of interest, but also probably of importance to everyone who is bringing or defending a Tribunal appeal, I have decided to share some of the relevant information I have learnt here.
I also thought it important to pass on this information to other people, who were not able to attend either of these events; such as parents who may only deal with a Tribunal appeal once or even LA officers who may have had to deal with more than one appeal over the years, but who may not be aware of some of the changes/requirements of the Tribunal these days.
However, as I know that this information may only be of interest to some people reading this update but not to others; like I have done before, rather than setting it out in full here, I have asked my colleague, Suzannah Lindon-Morris, to prepare a separate more detailed page about everything, which you can find here: ‘The SEND Tribunal - A View from the Inside’.
I hope this helps.
Of course, if you are a parent of a child/young person currently contemplating a SEND Tribunal appeal or are already in the middle of one and need specialist advice, then please Contact Us as soon as possible to see if we can help you.
THE CARE ACT 2014
I was also fortunate enough to attend a conference at the beginning of March 2015 staged by the Council for Disabled Children, where one of the sessions was about the new Care Act 2014, which came into legal effect at the beginning of April 2015, which was presented by Steve Broach, a Barrister specialising in this area.
As I have had to do research into the new Care Act myself, I also thought it would be helpful if I were to share some things about it with you here. Again, as I know that this information may only be of interest to some people reading this update but not to others; like before, rather than setting it out in full here, I have asked my colleague, Joshua Garrod, to prepare a separate more detailed page about everything, which you can find here: The Care Act 2014 - An Overview Of: ‘…the biggest reforms to the social care system in more than 60 years’.
Once more, I hope that this is helpful to you.
RECENT/FORTHCOMING SEN EVENTS
It has been a fairly busy few months for me, not only with casework and seeing/helping parents about their children, or with appeals to the SEND Tribunal, but I have also been able to attend a number of conferences/seminars/open days, like I have referred to above.
In terms of forthcoming SEN/Disability events, there are again a few things coming up which I would like to ‘plug’ (again in some cases), just in case you can make them:
However, I would also like to mention a couple of other things that are coming up, which may be of interest to you which are:
I hope to also be at a few of these, so if you see me, please say ‘Hello’!
“WELL, IF I’VE GOT TO SIT IN A WHEELCHAIR, AT LEAST LET’S HAVE SOME FUN!”
As I have said before, I have a progressive, degenerative neurological condition known as Cerebellar Ataxia and I actually became physically disabled later in life, so I have only been using a wheelchair for the last five years or so.
It is not so easy to have to start having to do things differently when this happens to you, as you have to be prepared to learn to graciously lose some of your independence and accept that you have to become more dependent and reliant on other things or people.
In fact, I consider myself very fortunate to have already been representing children with SEN/Disability for many years when this happened to me. I was even quite surprised at first when I started to tell people about my diagnosis, when many people said that, whilst they felt sorry for me, they thought that it was ‘brilliant’ (as one person put it) that a disabled man was representing disabled children.
If you have read my updates before, you will also know that I always like to see the lighter side of things wherever possible. So, when I realised that I was going to have to start using a wheelchair, I decided to try and turn it from a negative into a positive thing. As such, rather than just seeing/using the wheelchair as a ‘medical’ accessory, I decided to make it a ‘fashion’ accessory’; and, rather than only just having one wheelchair, I soon had four wheelchairs at my disposal:
Whilst this was initially for my own amusement, I have actually found over the years that it has become quite amusing sometimes also when people approach me and, in front of other people who do not know me, say things like “I see you came in your Bentley today” or “Will you be coming in your Ferrari or Lamborghini next week?”.
It is even funnier though when somebody says “have you been out on your Harley Davidson recently?”
As I said back then:
“Well, if I’ve got to sit in a wheelchair, at least let’s have some fun!”
With good wishes
by Douglas Silas, specialist SEN Solicitor