Q&A with Edward Timpson

We asked the Minister for Children and Families, Edward Timpson, for his response on four of the top issues effecting children, families and the sector.

The issues, chosen by CDC memebrs, included transition, short breaks, early years provision and work force development.

Please use the quick links below to jump to the question you're interested in.

  1. There are concerns that pressures on the transition process, and on transfer reviews in particular, are compromising the quality of EHC plans. What is the Minister doing to protect the quality of EHC plans, particularly those that are transferring from a statement or an LDA?
     
  2. Does the minister agree that local authority funding constraints may be affecting the sustainability of short breaks?
     
  3. What is the Minister doing to improve identification, particularly in the early years where making a good start can transform children’s later experiences?
     
  4. How will the Government ensure that disabled children and their families benefit equally from the new 30 hours entitlement in the Childcare Bill when there is evidence that there are problems with access under the current system?
     
  5. How is the Minister planning to develop SEN and disability skills across the workforce in a way that will lead to a sustainable improvement in outcomes for children and young people?

     


There are concerns that pressures on the transition process, and on transfer reviews in particular, are compromising the quality of EHC plans. What is the Minister doing to protect the quality of EHC plans, particularly those that are transferring from a statement or an LDA?

I am always keen to hear from parents, young people, local authorities and others involved in developing EHC plans about how they are finding the new assessment process and what they feel about the new plans produced as a result. In the great majority of cases, the feedback I am receiving shows a real enthusiasm for the new approach. Parents and young people are saying they feel the plan represents them ‘in the round’ and takes better account of their needs and aspirations. Professionals are saying that they value the chance to work more collaboratively across education, health and social care, and that the final plans give a really clear picture of the child or young person and how best to support them.

Of course, the process of transferring children and young people from a statement or an LDA to a good quality EHC plan presents a significant challenge for local areas and I do not underestimate the size of the task ahead. I will continue to closely monitor progress with the transition process over the coming months to understand these pressures better and to inform any further support that may be needed.

I have also asked the regional networks to reflect on their progress. I know that many are now planning to deliver training events to support the transition process, with the support of my Department. At the same time, the SEND Adviser team continues to provide feedback to local areas on the structure and content of their EHC plans, and on how to manage the transition process most effectively. While for parents, funding for Independent Supporters in every local authority will ensure that they feel fully supported during the transition period and that their needs and aspirations are taken into account.

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Does the minister agree that local authority funding constraints may be affecting the sustainability of short breaks?

Disabled children and young people, as well as their parents, consistently tell me how much they value and rely upon short breaks provision. Indeed, they often say that they don’t know how they would manage without them. This week we asked Minister for Children and Families, Edward Timpson, for his response on four of the top issues effecting children, families and the sector; transition, short breaks, early years provision and work force development.

I recognise that local authorities are having to make a number of difficult decisions about funding and provision in the current climate but they are under a legal duty to provide a range of short break services for disabled children and young people. They also need to publish a short breaks statement that explains what is available locally and how it can be accessed, including any eligibility criteria.

Local authorities collaborate with local NHS services to decide how available funding should be used in the light of local circumstances and their own assessment of individual needs. I was encouraged to hear that, when asked about their implementation of the SEND reforms in February 2015, the vast majority of authorities reported that they are keeping their short breaks budget the same as for 2014-15. I hope that you will find that equally reassuring.

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What is the Minister doing to improve identification, particularly in the early years where making a good start can transform children’s later experiences?

It is essential that children with SEN and disabilities have their needs identified as early as possible in order to get the joined up support they need and to achieve well in school and into adulthood. That is why I have been working with the early years Minister, Sam Gyimah, to ensure that all early years providers understand what is expected of them; and also what they can expect of local authorities and health bodies to ensure special education needs are picked up early and addressed effectively.

Health bodies are required to let local authorities know of individual children under compulsory school age who they believe have SEN or a disability. This is to enable the local authority to consider early on what support may be needed. We’ve also increased the number of health visitors trained to identify a disability or SEN and to provide advice and support.

Children’s progress in early years settings is reviewed and a summary shared with parents when the child is two and then again when the child turns five. This is an important time for children and their parents; it is when problems with development and behaviour can start to be identified and when interventions can be most effective, making a real difference to a child’s future.

The Early Years Foundation Stage Framework (EYFS) requires all early years providers to have in place arrangements to identify and support children with SEN or disabilities and to promote equality of opportunity for all the children in their care.

Through our voluntary and community sector funding programme we are funding a number of projects to better equip the workforce. For example, we are funding the National Day Nurseries Association to build on local systems for self-improvement through SEND champions; the Pen Green centre to support a model of peer to peer training; and the Pre-School Learning Allowance to build mentored workforce development networks.

The importance of early identification and intervention cannot be overstated and it is core to the 0-25 SEND reforms.

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How will the Government ensure that disabled children and their families benefit equally from the new 30 hours entitlement in the Childcare Bill when there is evidence that there are problems with access under the current system?

The Early Years Minister, Sam Gyimah, and I are determined to ensure that parents with disabled children should have the same opportunities as other parents via increased choice and access to high quality childcare. Where parents of disabled children would like to go out to work, we want to make it easier for them to do so.

We are aware that families with disabled children too often experience challenges and financial pressures in getting the services they need. That is why we want to increase the supply of providers offering affordable, high quality childcare for children with a disability to ensure that new entitlement is available to all eligible parents that want to take it up.

We are funding a number of projects to increase the number of good quality and flexible childcare and early education places for disabled children. For example, we are funding 4Children’s project to build on the success of Childcare Hubs to improve the quality, availability and flexibility of childcare within local areas; Family Action to support more school based childcare for children under five with SEND and are building on Family and Childcare Trusts parent champions and outreach work to increase the number of flexible early education and childcare places for disadvantaged families.

We will continue to work with providers to identify what more can be done to ensure that early years settings are building inclusive and accessible services for parents with disabled children.

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How is the Minister planning to develop SEN and disability skills across the workforce in a way that will lead to a sustainable improvement in outcomes for children and young people?

Ultimately, responsibility for workforce development lies with the schools, colleges, local authorities and Clinical Commissioning Groups. This is important as it ensures they are responsive to the needs of the children they serve. To ensure these organisations are equipped to deliver the expectations of the new SEND Code of Practice, my Department is offering a wide range of information, guidance, training and support.

At the local authority level, we are funding peer support provided by nine regional SEND and disability lead authorities and piloting a training and development programme for senior leaders in SEN and disability services. We are also funding legal training for providers of Information, Advice and Support services.

The SEND Gateway provides information and training resources for education professionals across early years, schools and FE. Through our voluntary and community sector programme, we are funding the National Association for Special Educational Needs (nasen) to develop online learning to help practitioners effectively identify and meet the needs of children and young people with SEN.

As already mentioned, we are also funding a number of projects to better equip the early years workforce to support children with SEND, through the use of SEND champions; peer to peer training and mentored workforce development networks.

At a school level, there are specific requirements for SENCOs and teachers of classes of pupils with sensory impairments to undertake post-graduate training. In addition, the National College for Teaching and Leadership has produced a series of specialist online courses which focus on dyslexia, autism, behavioural difficulties and speech and language needs.

For colleges, Initial Teacher Training bursaries of up to £9,000 a year have been available to encourage graduates to specialise in teaching young people with SEN in 2013/14 and 2014/15 and the scheme will be extended to 2015/16.

As part of the Golden Hello scheme to attract more maths teachers into colleges, an additional £2,500 is available to those who undertake professional development in teaching students with SEN and £1m has been made available for grants to the FE workforce to undertake specialist continuing professional development in SEN in 2014.

For the health workforce, my Department is funding Contact a Family to provide health practitioners with a practical tool to help them develop person centred outcomes for children and young people. In parallel, Parent Carer Forums will be supported by Contact a Family to engage more effectively with health practitioners and commissioners.

For the Youth Justice Sector, my Department is funding the National Children’s Bureau to provide support for children and young people with SEN in youth custody, including workforce development materials, regional workshops and targeted support to local authorities who need it.

If we are to achieve our vision set out in the new 0-25 SEND Code of Practice, ultimately we need long-term culture change and a workforce which is confident and skilled to identify need and put in place effective and joined up support.

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