Children and Families Act introduced into Parliament
A new Parliamentary Act, which seeks to improve the provision of education, health and social care for children and young people with special educational needs, received Royal Assent on March 13th.
The Children and Families Act is set to come into force in the next few months and is likely affect children and young people who attend Livability’s schools and colleges.
The Act represents the biggest changes to Special Education in the past 30 years. It will make significant changes in the ways that children and young people with special educational needs or learning difficulties and disabilities are supported.
- The introduction of a single 0-25 system which encourages education, health and social care sectors to work more closely together for the benefit of the child/ young person
- Encourages greater participation from the child/ young person and their family in the decision making
- The introduction of Education, Health and Care plan (EHC plan) to replace SEN statements and Learning Difficulty Assessments
- An onus on local authorities to publish a Local Offer which will outline all the provision and support available in their local area and beyond- including health, social care, training opportunities, travel arrangements to nursery/school/ college and preparation for adulthood- including housing and leisure opportunities
The aspirations of the Children and Families Act, which firmly places the young person’s views, wishes and feelings at the heart, has been positively received by a range of bodies working with and on behalf of disabled children and young people. This includes NATSPEC, the Association of National Specialist Colleges and Every Disabled Child Matter, the campaign coalition heavily involved in the consultation process of the Bill*. However, there is still some concern regarding specific aspects of the Act such as ensuring the practice guidance for the new SEN Code of Practice is fit for purpose.
The Children and Families Act was first introduced into the House of Commons on 4 February 2013 and has since undergone significant scrutiny in both the House of Lords and House of Commons. Baroness Valerie Howarth of Breckland OBE, Senior Vice President and Trustee of Livability, was very involved in the Act whilst it was in the House of Lords, said:
‘This Act is an exciting step forward in legislation. But all of us who worked hard to ensure that it meets the needs of our children, young people and their families must remain vigilant as it moves forward to implementation.
There is a danger that nothing will change unless those providing services actively promote their development and work together in new ways.
Resources will remain an issue and the local offer may not be enough. But this is a significant move forward that we should welcome.’
The Children and Families Act has introduced new/ improved existing legislation relating to a number of areas including adoption and children in care; aspects of the family justice system; children and young people with special educational needs; statutory rights to leave and pay for parents and adopters and the right to request flexible working.
For more information on the Children and Families Act:
For comment from national disability bodies on the Act:
- NATSPEC: http://www.natspec.org.uk/children-families-bill/
- Every Disabled child Matters (EDCM): http://www.edcm.org.uk/campaigns-and-policy/children-and-families-bill
*Livability is a member of NATSPEC and supports the EDCM coalition