Tamsin Coates: What the government’s Special Educational Needs changes mean for parents of deaf children

Posted on June 26, 2014

The government has put in place some new ‘reforms’ – changes to current practice, which are directly within the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) area.

These will potentially affect families with deaf children so I thought I would put together a little piece to highlight a few of the key changes and what families can expect in as easy a format to read as I can manage with all these ‘governmentease’ terms and phrases.

As of September the 1st 2014 if you or professionals feel your child needs assessing for what is now a ‘Statement of Special Educational Needs’ you/they will from that date instead apply for an ‘Education Health Care Plan’ (EHCP). No statements will be issued after that date.

1) All children who have statements and whose needs have not changed dramatically will be switched over to EHCP’s over the next three years.

There is no difference between the criteria to be eligible for an ‘old’ statement or a ‘new’ EHCP. It will not happen automatically on the 1st of September this year and may not happen for a while for your child – the statement you have will remain legal in the meantime.

Transferring over will be a gradual process, which will start with children/young people who are transitioning between primary and secondary or secondary into further education and then move through the rest of the children/young people.

2) There will be ‘Independent Supporters’ in your area to help parents with these changes so if you feel you need help ask your teacher of the deaf, paediatrician or other professional to put you in contact with one.

More information at this link: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/special-educational-needs-and-disabilities-send-reform-letters

3) These changes now mean that education, health and social care services will no longer stop at 19 years old for young adults. The age range will instead cover them up until the age of 25.

4) Every school, early years setting and further education location now needs to make public their ‘offer’.

Where previously they haven’t had to share what provision they have for children with special educational needs, they now need to put all this information together in one place on their school website, along with answers to frequently asked questions, where anybody can go on and look at this information.

This means parents, when looking for a suitable school for their child, can have a look at this information to help at the start of their selection process to find a school which can support their child and meet their needs.

More on the code of practice here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/send-code-of-practice-0-to-25

5) The local authority have to show publicly what they can ‘offer’ locally (called The Local Offer) on a website. This will have links to services which you can access, information about the services, local support groups….however the format and content of each website will be unique to your area.

6) The changes coming in are law as of September the 1st 2014, so all local authorities HAVE to comply by then.

This means that at the current time lots of authorities are rapidly trying to put things together to have the parts in place and train people as to how new processes will work.

Schools are only just getting this information now too, so in September, everything will still be very new for everyone. There may well still be kinks to iron out and lots of uncertainty – don’t let that stop you asking for the assessments your child needs in an appropriate time period.

7) It is an evolving process so, while it has to be in place by September, over the next year it will all get evaluated and changed as necessary so if you find something which isn’t working or needs amending try to feedback into the local authority – maybe via their ‘local offer’ website.

The government has stipulated that service users must now be involved in co-producing any new changes to services and how they are delivered.

This has meant that in a lot of areas parents have been able to influence a lot around these changes locally and have their voice heard. If you get offered the opportunity to input in your area – take it!

If there are going to be changes in the way services are delivered in your area –ask if and how they have been co-produced.

Now is a time when service users, parents, children and young people are having the chance to have their voice heard a little louder so don’t underestimate the input you could have if you are interested and feel confident in putting your views forward.

Tamsin Coates trained and worked as a Speech and Language Therapist for over 10 years. Her training came in useful when she had two sons who are profoundly deaf. She now juggles being a mum to three lively children, writing (she has new book A Changing Skyline out now and you can buy her first book Meanwhile I Keep Dancing here), co-ordinating Teen Team events for the Wirral Deaf Children’s Society and raising awareness regarding deaf issues wherever she can.

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