Charities say that special needs education (SEN) in England are being implemented too quickly.
As of September special needs statements will be replaced by “education, health and care statements” which hopes to give more holistic support, reports the BBC.
The government said the system would allow change to “take place gradually”.
Mark Lever of the National Autistic Society said details of “the biggest reform of the SEN system in 30 years” had not yet been finalised. He told BBC Radio 5 live Breakfast that the changes could be undermined by the government’s failure to provide a joined-up system of appeal. “Too many families of children with autism will continue to battle for support on multiple fronts,” he said.
Dan Scorer, Mencap’s head of policy and public affairs said: “The finer details of the changes are yet to be published which means that professionals who work with children and young people with SEN have just a few months’ notice of their new obligations before they are expected to meet them. This is a matter of urgency as the reforms are due to be implemented from September this year. Families of people with a learning disability have waited many years for the serious failings in the current SEN system to be addressed and, unless local authorities, schools and colleges are fully prepared, the impact of these important changes could be seriously undermined.”
The changes have been set out in the Children and Families Act, which became law last month. The definitive version of this new special needs code of practice is set to be published in the summer.
The government has said the intention of the changes is to give young people with SEN and their parents “greater control and choice over the services they receive so their needs are properly met”.
The new system will see health and care needs be put alongside educational ones, with an individual worker and single budget for each family. The single system will offer education support up to the age of 25.
The charities welcome the new system as it has the potential to improve support to children and young people and enable them to achieve their full potential, however they warn the real test for the reforms will be how well they are implemented at a local level.
“Success will depend on local authorities, health bodies and their partners changing their practices to put families at the heart of the system”, said Mr Scorer.
A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “We have put in place significant support for local areas to prepare for the Special Educational Needs and Disability reforms. This includes a £70m grant for local authorities, and £30m to recruit and train 1,800 champions to support parents as the new reforms are implemented. We have also increased funding for Parent Carer Forums from £10,000 to £15,000. We know the majority of local authorities are confident they will be ready to make the new system available to new entrants from 1 September and the changes will take place gradually, allowing the new arrangements to develop locally.”
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