Dimensions’ response to the Government’s SEND review

The Government’s current SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) review provides a real opportunity to help young people and families preparing for adulthood, avoiding what can at present be a very sharp cliff edge.

Dimensions’ contribution can be found below. We invite you to consider this in your own response before the 22 July deadline.

A single national SEND and alternative provision system

What key factors should be considered, when developing national standards to ensure they deliver improved outcomes and experiences for children and young people with SEND and their families? This includes how this applies across education, health and care in a 0-25 system.

Formal standards are welcome but where the achievement of Standards requires investment, that must be provided. It is unclear if there are consequences for non-attainment of Standards; if so, consideration must be given to unintended consequences.

Standards must extend to the end of CYP (children and young people) services so that transition to adult support is a continuum, not a cliff edge. Schools and Local Authorities (LAs) often don’t think about transition to adulthood; transitions are often late, rushed, and poor.

Families are often unaware that transition planning should begin at age 13-14; who supports families? This is an underdesigned and unbudgeted area of need. Where they exist at all, LA Transitions Teams are exceptionally difficult to engage.

Colleges are often owned by adult care providers, providing a ‘pipeline’ of business. Choice is illusory. Families should be supported to understand the different housing and support arrangements available, particularly supported living which can be less well understood.

Common Transfer Files should be agreed with family/carers at each EHCP (education, health and care plan) review to ensure correct and unbiased opinions about needs. All information should be positive and person centred. Transitions needs should be captured in Common Transfer Files and added to over a child’s educational journey, starting with needs discovered on transition to primary school. Common Transfer Files should be digitally accessible to Social Care, and written in such a way as to help create and Adult Social Care Assessment of Need.

How should we develop the proposal for new local SEND partnerships to oversee the effective development of local inclusion plans whilst avoiding placing unnecessary burdens or duplicating current partnerships?

SEND partnerships should have a ‘Preparing for adulthood’ subgroup with a remit to examine how education providers and transitions teams are engaging with transitions standards and preparing young people for adulthood.

Partnerships should include families, young people and adults who have been through the current system to ensure a user friendly design that will be successful for people (and hence, secondly, for services.)

Excellent provision from early years to adulthood

What more can be done by employers, providers and government to ensure that those young people with SEND can access, participate in and be supported to achieve an apprenticeship, including through access routes like Traineeships?

Adult supported employment programmes adhere to the BASE (British Association of Supported Employment) guidelines. A key aspect of this is around work readiness. Young people should be offered BASE-certified work readiness training within college.

Consideration should also be given to whether specialist training for shortage occupations (a list is produced by the Migration Advisory Committee) might be offered.

Tackle biases against people being able to work – these biases exist throughout the system, from early years and up (using Person Centred thinking and planning training for example). Often, teachers and families alike require support and training to change their own expectations and ambitions for the young person with help from examples and stories. If you have been led to believe you ‘can’t work’ it is much harder to change your expectations later on.

The success of these measures may ultimately be viewed through the lens of the disability employment gap.

Delivering change for children and families

Is there anything else you would like to say about the proposals in the green paper?

Ordinary Lives.

Ultimately the goal of ‘preparation for adulthood’ should be to support a young person to develop the independence to lead an ordinary life. Work and education play a big part but so too, for many, do fundamental life skills: managing money, handling relationships, staying safe, looking after oneself and one’s home. Progression towards these independent living skills should form part of the curriculum and the Standards expected of students by the time they leave formal education.

Removing opportunities for families to challenge will accentuate the core issue, namely a lack of training and resource in mainstream school with sufficient leeway in the curriculum to create success for less academic pupils.

Making it harder for families to have the needs of their child described and met in a person-centred manner will lead to an increase in disputes – not a reduction. It will increase whole life issues and create huge additional cost across adult social services. We do not believe that this Green Paper would have been written by someone with responsibility for the whole-life cost of a child