On Tuesday 27th March, FLARE met with the newly appointed Minister for Children and Families, Nadhim Zahawi, at the Department of Education in Westminster. We felt honoured and a sense of responsibility with this opportunity through FLARE to represent disabled young people from across the country, especially those who do not have the vocal platform that FLARE affords them.
Firstly, we had a meeting with Nadhim Zahawi. We talked about the SEND reforms (changes to the Children and Families Act 2014) and what we thought should be changed on their implementation. We shared our personal experiences with him and suggested ways of solving some of the issues we raised. Secondly, we had another meeting with Ann Gross and Stuart Miller, senior officials in the SEND team. Here we discussed the work that FLARE has done so far and want to do in the future.
It is important for children and young people to meet with top level decision-makers as it enables the decision-makers to get an honest, direct view of what it is like ‘on the front line’, in real terms. Also, being children we are unaccustomed to the bureaucracy and “politics” of reforms, so we can use our unique perspective to suggest innovative and unique solutions to issues that face young people across the country. It is also important for young people as it helps them appreciate the influence that they can have and makes them more valued and more motivated as they know their view is at least not going unheard.
I hope that Nadhim Zahawi and his team will take on our views and consider them seriously as part of further refinement and changes to the SEND reforms. Maybe we can meet with him again in a year’s time so we can discuss the progress being made on the issues that we raised in the meetings.