Neglected children are often ignored by others
I welcome the plan to reform the system for identifying and meeting special educational needs (SEN). I heartily approve of the idea of the education,
health and care plan (EHCP) from birth to the age of 25. I also agree that we must promote a joined-up approach by the health and education services in identifying and meeting special needs. However, the experience of many families is that there have been considerable organisational and financial disincentives to stop these agencies from providing the services that our children need. Will the new order change this? I doubt it. I am concerned about how a child will qualify for the EHCP, and earn the level of help currently given to those with a statement of special educational need. Can this decision really be achieved through one assessment?
As Jeevan Vasagar points out in his news story on the green paper, the present system has three tiers:
• a school action level at which a child might receive some one-to-one support;
• school action plus, where the child is likely to receive support from external services such as child psychologists;
• and statements for children with the most severe needs.
The future for those who do not meet the assessment threshold for the new EHCPs looks most uncertain. As I understand it, children currently on school action or school action plus – whether they are underachieving due to having SEN or due to being disadvantaged – will in future have their needs addressed through pastoral care, improved teaching methods, and schools sharing knowledge with each other. I worry that this is where the voluntary sector will be brought in, and that these children will be failed. So much in the green paper is dependent on reforms the government has brought in or is introducing. A lot also seems to depend on assessing needs through Sure Start centres – which have just had their funding cut. The green paper talks about improving training for teachers and educational psychologists and employing more health visitors. However, we know that they will need to work through services that have been heavily cut. You simply cannot replace highly trained and experienced professionals with untrained volunteers, and expect to improve on the service provided. I am somewhat aghast that this appears to be what the government is trying to do. I applaud the green paper's ambition to provide a seamless progression for children with SEN and disabilities to improve their life chances, and I understand that the government intends to carry out more consultation on this matter. However, unless ministers detail how these policies will be implemented and paid for (and it's not enough just to tell us they will reduce bureaucracy, waste and save money), these goals will remain aspirational – and that won't help my children.
• Ellen Power has two children with special educational needs. She blogs in the name of GuerrillaMum and has written a book about how to get the best deal for your special needs child.