New ‘champions’ will help parents with SEN reforms

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A £30 million fund has been set up to create more than 1,800 “independent supporters” to help parents navigate the new SEN processes.

These experts, to be known as “champions”, will be in place by September, children and families minister Edward Timpson said this week.

The funding will pay for recruitment and training with the champions to be drawn from the voluntary, community and private sectors.

It follows the range of reforms to SEN policy that are contained in the Children and Families Bill, which is currently progressing through Parliament. 

The changes, set to take effect in September, include the replacement of SEN statements with the new 0 to 25 Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs), firmly linking the roles of local authorities, health and social care, and schools.

Under the reforms, young people with an EHCP and their parents will have a legal right to express a preference for state academies, free schools and further education colleges. This is currently limited to maintained mainstream and special schools. They can also ask for a personal budget for their support.

Local authorities will also have to publish a Local Offer detailing what provision is in their area for all disabled and SEN young people, and also how schools can access assessments for EHCPs.

The champions will spend one-to-one time with families and offer “independent help and advice” to help them progress through the new SEN assessments and the EHCP process.

A Department for Education statement said: “Where there is disagreement, independent supporters will also make sure councils understand what families want, and help families to challenge decision-making so children with SEN receive the support they really need.”

The Council for Disabled Children (CDC) is to oversee the recruitment and training of the new champions and there are to be around 12 in each area.

Christine Lenehan, director of the CDC, said: “Independent support will become a valuable resource to help and support parents of children with SEN and young people, parent partnership services and local authorities, as we all move towards implementing the reforms and local offer.

Mr Timpson said: “Our new £30 million fund will allow families to access help and support from more than 1,800 fully trained champions across the country. I know from speaking to many parents how much they value any support in helping them access the services their children need.”

 


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