My apologies that this update is a bit later than usual.
It usually gets released on the first Friday morning of every new academic half-term, but I have held this one back deliberately until the second Monday afternoon. This is because I wanted to include something useful that only happened a day before (and then I also knew people had the snow to contend with at the end of last week).
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.
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IT’S NEARLY TIME
This first section of my update is not about the transfer process of Statements of SEN to Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans, as some of you may have thought.
It is actually about the forthcoming implementation of a National Trial for the SEND Tribunal to start making (non-binding) recommendations about Health and Social Care provision, as well as making decisions about Educational provision, for any new appeals registered after 3 April 2018.
The backdrop to this is that, for many years, parents of children and young people with SEN (and those supporting them) complained that SEND Tribunals could only focus on educational issues and sometimes a child or young person would have more complicated needs, which could fall into the realms of health or social care (i.e. non-educational) provision.
As such, they would be required to sort any disputes out through often complicated alternative processes, which were not as easy to negotiate (although please do not hear me as saying that appeals to the SEND Tribunal are, by any means, straightforward).
I can probably do no better than quote from the Department for Education, as quoted by the Council of Disabled Children’s (CDC’s) website which states:
‘We are trialling the First-tier Tribunal (SEND) making non-binding decisions on health and social care alongside education. The trial will launch on 03 April 2018 and run for two years.
Currently appeals can only be made to the Tribunal over the education aspects of Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans, and the trial will give parents the ability to appeal associated health and social care issues via a single route.
The trial will extend the powers of the Tribunal to make non-binding recommendations about the health and social care aspects of Education, Health and Care plans.
This new approach will enable the Tribunal to take a more holistic view of children and young people’s needs across education, health and social care in line with EHC plans and provide a person-centred approach to decision making. It should also provide positive benefits for families and improve joint working among commissioners.
An evaluation process will run alongside the Trial, looking at implementation, outcomes for families and commissioners and costs.
The Trial places responsibility on LA SEND teams to:
It also places responsibility on health and social care commissioners to:
This will give families new rights and they are advised to:
There is also a support package which includes induction events, guidance for local areas and parents & young people, a toolkit and ongoing support.
Personally, I think that this is a really fantastic step forward for everyone concerned about children and young people with SEND and how best to meet their needs; and another step forward to all of us ‘Working Together’.
GOING, GOING, GONE…
If you have read my last couple of updates, you should already know about the new annual SEN Law Conference that I am hosting jointly with IPSEA and Matrix Chambers, which is now almost upon us tomorrow on Tuesday 6 March 2018.
I am delighted to let you know that over 200 people have booked for this inaugural event, which is being held at The Law Society in London - bookings were actually filled up a few weeks ago and there has been an increasing waiting list ever since.
If you are going to join us then you will be pleased to hear that you got in quickly but, on the other hand, if this is something you wanted to attend but did not book in time, you may be disappointed at not being able to go (and should make a note to apply early for next year’s 2019 event [again in March] when bookings start in Autumn 2018.
Fortunately, if you are in the latter category, there is some consolation in the fact that the Conference pack/papers (which I have seen and which is very good) can still be bought after the event for people to read in case they were not able to attend (for any reason).
You can register your interest for somebody to contact you about this at:
Of course, you will get one anyway if you are coming tomorrow; and if you are there and see me, please make sure you stop me and say hello!
A SNEAK PREVIEW
Continuing with this topic, as I say, I have had a chance to see the SEN Law Conference pack/papers already and thought I would give you a bit of a sneak preview, as there are papers/ slides called:
There will also be some individual and panel question and answer sessions and a chance for networking.
I know from personal experience that it is extremely difficult sometimes to keep up to date with everything about SEN law (even for someone like me who only concentrates on this area); so, if you are joining us tomorrow then I am sure it will prove a very important and fascinating day.
However, if you are not going to be able to join us, then I encourage you to obtain the conference pack at least (and if you wanted to attend, but were unable to book a place in time), I suggest that you book as early as possible for next year’s conference!
RECENT/FORTHCOMING SEN EVENTS
I was very pleased to be able to attend the annual conference run by the Council for Disabled Children (‘CDC’) last Thursday 22 February 2018 (which is why I delayed this update).
It was entitled: ‘SEND – Looking Beyond The Reforms’. They described it as ‘a unique opportunity to understand, debate and influence the future direction of policy, practice and legislation affecting disabled children and young people and those with SEN.’
During the morning, we heard from a number of speakers, including:
After lunch there were also a number of workshops available and I was able to attend ones about ‘Involving Young People in Strategic Decision-making’ and ‘The Children and Families Act 2014 – implications of the latest case law’.
All in all, it was a very interesting day but I was particularly taken by some of the things said by Dame Christine Lenehan like:
In terms of forthcoming SEN events, I (again) would recommend:
As a physically disabled wheelchair user, with co-ordination and eyesight difficulties, I have not been able to drive a car myself for many years now. As I also find using public transport quite difficult (overground trains are better, but using the London Underground and buses still tends to be quite hard or even impossible for me), I have had to use taxis/cabs a lot during this time.
I like to think that I am quite a sociable person and can establish a good rapport with drivers quite quickly, as I need to ask them to help me either to get me into their vehicle in my wheelchair (via a ramp), or assist me into their vehicle’s ordinary seats and then put my wheelchair into the boot (I usually travel in an MPV/people carrier, so that my wheelchair does not have to be collapsed, as it has been damaged too many times in that way).
During the past week or so, I have had to do a lot of travelling around the country for various SEND Tribunal hearings/events and have therefore had to spend a lot of my time in taxis/cabs. So, I want to share with you today, a story that happened to me a few years ago, that I was reminded of when re-telling the story to a parent whose hearing I attended earlier that day, whilst waiting with them for my cab to arrive to take me to the train station to return home...
I always try to book a hotel near the train station/hearing venue (so that I do not have to travel too far when I arrive the evening before a hearing or to get to the venue the next morning) - I am afraid that I am one of those people who try to get to places as early as possible (although I know that I sometimes fail miserably because of all the hassles that I go through!)
On this occasion, I arrived later than I hoped, but when I did, I was helped to get an (ordinary but accessible) cab by a member of staff at the train station, which came after a few minutes and I managed to get into fairly quickly. The hotel that I was staying as was only a few minutes away from the station and we also arrived fairly quickly.
When I got out of the cab, I turned to the driver and asked him how much it would be. I was extremely surprised when he then told me that it would be £25.
‘How much? I asked, ‘…it has only been a very short journey!’
‘I know’ he replied, ‘…but you are in a wheelchair’ he then said to my astonishment.
I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing, but I responded and told him immediately that he was messing with the wrong person; and said that he should immediately get his manager on his phone for me to speak to.
He was clearly a bit surprised about getting this response from someone who he had probably previously perceived as a weak, disabled person in a wheelchair and then made (what I felt was) the pretence of going to the other side of his vehicle and getting his mobile phone out.
He returned somewhat sheepishly a few minutes later to say that he had not been able to speak to his manager, but had decided that, as I had not been told that there would be an increased price for me as I was using a wheelchair, he would only charge me £10 for the journey!
Although I felt that this was still me being overcharged, it was late and I wanted to get into my hotel room as soon as possible, in order to rest for as much time as possible for the hearing next day and so I paid it (I did get a receipt from him written on the back of the taxi company’s card). I also wanted to spend no more time with him now after being treated in this way.
I soon became conscious afterwards and have been since then, that another disabled person using a wheelchair, who did not have as much confidence as me, would have probably ended up paying the £25 to him, because they would probably feel quite vulnerable.
It still amazes me to think that, even in this day and age, there are still people out there who will try to take advantage of disabled people like me in this way…
With good wishes
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