Specialist SEN Solicitor
19th July 2021
We all need to recharge our batteries once in a while...
Rest is very important and, although ideally for me, you should really rest at least once a week, I know that this doesn't always feel realistically possible for a lot of people.
But imagine that you are a mobile phone battery, you still need to recharge yourself every night and then keep things topped up regularly to work properly - your mobile phone will not go on forever without being recharged!
Everybody needs a break from time to time, to allow themselves time to rejuvenate properly. Even a change is as good as a rest they say. In fact, most of the time, you cannot just stop and start again instantaneously, but you need to let yourself unwind gradually, before being able to rest properly. It's like creating a regular time to wind down every night in a routine before being able to get a good night's sleep, Things like this just don't happen - you need to properly plan for them to happen.
And remember, you are not as important or as indispensable as you think you are. The world will go on without you for a little while, believe me. Also, there's no good supposedly taking a holiday but then still thinking about work. You need to properly switch off to really get the benefit of a rest, otherwise it is not a true rest and you will continue to run a deficit.
So "work hard and play hard" as people say.
I wish you well for the summer break!
This is my last SEN Update for this academic year - I will write again when we start the new academic year 2021/22 in September.
In this week's SEN Update, you will find sections entitled:
I know how busy everyone always is, so please feel free just to read the sections that are of interest to you or read everything; the choice is always yours.
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REVIEWS, REFORMS AND REPORTS
A bit unusually for me, I am going to try to cover three different things in the first section of this update.
Delay to the SEND Review
The first is that the cross-Government SEND Review proposals that were going to be published for consultation in summer 2021 have been delayed. The letter that I have seen from Permanent Secretary, Susan Acland-Hood, on behalf of the Government, to Meg Hiller. chair of the Commons Public Accounts committee, states the following things:
"The pandemic has both unavoidably delayed the pace of the work of this important Review and, crucially, has materially altered the context for reform."
"We only have one chance to get this right and have, after careful reflection, decided we should take more time to ensure our reform plans can deliver the systemic change needed."
"We will be using this time to make certain our plans complement the wider work being done on recovery and school reform, and that they have the longevity needed to offer stability to the sector."
"We will work at pace over the coming months, so we are in a strong position to publish bold proposals for public consultation."
'Left Behind' report
The second thing that I ant to refer you to is the report entitled: 'Left Behind' published this week by the Disabled Children's Partnership. I can do no better than to point you to their website, which states:
"The final survey of our parent panel, together with Freedom of Information (FOI) requests from councils and health trusts, shows that whilst the rest of the country slowly returns to normal, disabled children and their families are being left behind.
On 16 July, we published Left Behind. It reports on our survey of nearly 300 parent carers in June 2021 alongside the findings from a series of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests of local authorities and health service providers, showing how. The survey exposes the impact of the pandemic on the progress of disabled children and young people, and the ongoing issues of social isolation and poor mental health; and the FOIs how disabled children’s health and care services have been drastically reduced during the pandemic.
These worrying statistics therefore show that urgent action is needed to address the fact that support services are not reaching children fast enough – creating devastating health impacts."
SEND Review again
The third and last thing that I want to bring your attention to is a news article I read on the TES website this week entitled: 'SEND review looking to reduce parent need for EHC plans', which stated:
"The Department for Education's top civil servant has said that the government's SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) review is focusing on ensuring more parents do not need to get an education, health and care plan (EHCP) in order to get what they need for their child.
Permanent secretary Susan Acland-Hood also ruled out getting rid of these plans when she appeared before MPs on the Commons Public Accounts committee this week.
But she declined to say when the government's ongoing SEND review would be completed when asked if it would be published before the end of the financial year.
An EHCP is a legal document that describes a child or young person's special educational, health and social care needs, and sets out how these will be met. They were introduced in 2014.
Committee chair Meg Hiller described an EHCP as being a parents' "golden ticket" to ensure their children with additional needs get the funding they need throughout their education and she asked whether the system could be replaced as part of the government's ongoing SEND review.
Ms Acland-Hood said that EHC plans would be kept in place, but she added: "I think the key focus is trying to make sure that for many many more parents they don't need to pursue an EHCP in order to get the things that they want."
The latest government figures show that there were 325,618 pupils in schools with EHCPs in 2020-21 up from 294,758 a year earlier.
Ms Acland-Hood suggested that there has been an issue with the balance of funding being provided to ensure needs are meet through EHCPs.
She said: "The huge value that the EHCP gives to the parent and the pupil is certainty about what is going to be provided.
"The risk is that that comes at the cost of resource to try to make earlier provision in the system before people have had to go through the process that leads to an EHCP.
"We absolutely need a SEND review that addresses that fundamental conundrum."
She was also questioned about when the review will be published.
The ongoing review was launched by education secretary Gavin Williamson in September 2019.
Last year, he told MPs on the Commons Education Select Committee that its findings would not be published until the early part of this year, having been delayed because of the Covid crisis.
Ms Hillier said: "I wanted to ask you again about the SEND Review .The last time you were in front of us you told us you would expect it by the end of June. That date has been and gone, so where is the special educational needs and disabilities review?"
Ms Acland-Hood said: "We have had some challenges with the SEND Review because of Covid over the past year but also more fundamentally as the chief inspector noted in her recent report we can see the system in which the SEND system needs to land changing quite fundamentally as a result of the pandemic."
She said the department wanted to take "a little bit longer" to ensure that the review has taken account of the changing picture caused by the Covid pandemic."
As this academic year now draws to a close, we need to reflect again on it being the second year now in a row that children have had things very disrupted for them by Covid-19.
I know that there is a real hope that things will be gradually getting back to some degree of normality soon, even though things seem still sometimes to not always be going to plan. I therefore really hope and pray that things will settle down by the beginning of next term.
In the meantime, I guess it is best summed up for now by the Children's Commissioner, Rachel de Souza, who this week said in an article entitled: 'A joined-up vision for children’s support will improve the lives of children with SEND'':
"The impact of the last year and a half on children’s lives has been enormous – not only bringing into focus the many generational problems facing young people, but multiplying and accelerating some of them. As we come out of the pandemic, this should be the moment to tackle them with best practice, new ideas and big ambitions. We owe it to children for the huge sacrifices they have made for us, despite them being at least risk of becoming ill.
We must start with children and families placed at the heart of our thinking – designing systems around them so we can better achieve more integrated services that best meet their needs, and which give children the best opportunities to prepare for adulthood and live healthy and successful lives.
In order to do this, we need reform, both of children’s social care and the SEND system, and this reform needs to make sense as a whole. I don’t underestimate the challenges, but I believe that we can bring about reform by focusing first on what we can achieve. The SEND review, the Care Review and the Integrated Care System white paper are all important elements for making strong and lasting change and give us an opportunity to tackle some of the long-standing problems that have held back some children.
I don’t underestimate the challenges, but I believe that we can bring about reform by focusing first on what we can achieve
There is no doubt that the Covid pandemic has put new stresses on many families and the systems that support vulnerable children. The pandemic’s impact on the SEND system has materially hugely changed the context that SEND local areas, schools and those supporting children and young people with SEND are now operating in. It is vitally important that the SEND review reflects that, and I do understand why the Government has said it needs more time to ensure that any proposals from the review take full account of the unexpected changes there have been over the last 18 months.
I know children and their families, those who support them and those working in the SEND sector are impatient for change. I share that impatience, and I have made it one of my priorities as Children’s Commissioner to follow closely the progress of the SEND Review.
I intend to continue that involvement, to offer my ideas and the expertise of my office, and to challenge the SEND Review team to make sure that this once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve the outcomes for children with SEND delivers the improvements the system needs."
LATEST NEWS ONLINE
And in terms of news, here are the articles that I found of interest this week:
Lockdown: 'Children behind in speech and understanding'
1.5m pupils out of school in England last week
‘Creativity crisis’ looms for English schools due to arts cuts, says Labour
Funding halved on services for vulnerable children in England
Schools in England shut early for summer as record numbers are forced to isolate
Again, aside from clicking on the relevant links for more information, I would also remind you of the very useful resources and information provided on the following websites:
- Council for Disabled Children
- Special Needs Jungle
I would also highlight again the fact that you can now get a digital copy of the magazine: Autism Eye which is very helpful to any parents or professionals involved with children/young people with Autism.
Keep safe until next term.
With best wishes
P.S. I understand that there are many educational items, news articles, or other useful resources on the web, so I would be very grateful if you could let me know of any that you find that you think that others may find useful, so that I can direct people to them.