Education Minister Edward Timpson praised the work of the South East 7 (SE7) Pathfinder partnership for its work in helping to reform the support available for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) when he visited an inclusive play centre.
The play centre, in Farnham, is run by Disability Challengers, one of many organisations that are part of the SE7 Pathfinder. The partnership is ensuring families play a full part in developing and piloting the reforms that will give them greater control and choice over the care their children receive.
Mr Timpson said: “We are undertaking major reforms of special educational needs provision which will put parents and young people firmly in the driving seat.
“It is vital that we get these reforms right, so I am delighted that this project is working so well in the SE7 area, where young people are involved in developing and trialling the new system.”
Among those Mr Timpson met on his visit was the Bromfield family from West Sussex – Julie and Paul and their daughter Chloe, aged four. Julie said: “Meeting the minister was great and I got to tell him what I wanted. It’s not every day you get to put your point across to a minister and I wasn’t going to waste the opportunity!”
The SE7 Pathfinder includes seven local authorities, Primary Care Trusts, Parent Carer Forums and other agencies and was set up in 2011, following a successful bid to the Government for Pathfinder status led by East Sussex County Council.
The Pathfinder will continue to test and develop the reforms that were set out in the wide-ranging Children and Families Bill, introduced into Parliament on 4 February, which includes measures on:
- replacing Statements of SEN with a single assessment and single Education, Health and Care Plan, from birth to 25
- offering families personal budgets so that they have more control over the support they need
- improving co-operation between all the services that support children and their families, with local authorities and health authorities working closely together
- ensuring local authorities involve children, young people and parents in reviewing and developing provision for those children with SEND and publish a Local Offer detailing all the help and support that is available.
The Government said the continuing work of the Pathfinders would be “essential in helping us to make sure we get the regulations right”. It has, therefore, extended funding until September 2014.
On his visit, Mr Timpson also met Laura Sercombe, Chief Executive of Disability Challengers, and SE7 Pathfinder representatives, including Jean Haigh, SE7 Pathfinder Regional Lead.
Jean, who is also Head of SEN and Disability Services at East Sussex County Council, said: “The work of Disability Challengers is an excellent example of the collaborative work being done across the SE7 region to ensure that children and families with special educational needs and disabilities play a full part in developing the provision of support and services available to them.
“We know the changes will provide better outcomes for our children and I am delighted the SE7 Pathfinder will continue to be at the forefront of shaping the reforms.”
Mr Timpson said: “I really enjoyed meeting the parents and young people who are helping to develop new local offers, Education, Health and Care Plans and personal budgets across SE7. They are setting an example for our reforms.”
The SE7 is a collaboration involving East Sussex County Council, Brighton & Hove City Council, Kent County Council, Hampshire County Council, Medway Council, West Sussex County Council and Surrey County Council, the relevant NHS organisations and the children and families in the SE7 area. The area serves 1.3 million children including more than 24,000 with special educational needs.
For more details on the Government’s Children and Families Bill visit the Department for Education website.
The policies are those for children who have disabilities, and those with learning, emotional or behavioural difficulties. It applies to children and young people from birht to 25 years. There have been 20 areas in the country where local authorities and their Primary Care Trusts have been developing the trying new approaches to special educational needs and disabilities, and the SE7 is the largest.
East Sussex County Council is one of seven major Councils across the South East to have entered into the formal SE7 collaboration to improve the quality of local services across a variety of areas and to increase value for money.
East Sussex County Council, Brighton & Hove City Council, Hampshire County Council, Kent County Council, Medway Council, Surrey County Council and West Sussex County Council – which between them cover a population of 5.3 million people, including 1.3 million children and young people, and are responsible for net budgets worth £3.4 billion per annum.
By working together through joint contracts, sharing information, skills and resources the South East authorities will actively seek opportunities to reduce costs and improve services.
A range of different council services are being examined by the SE7 and East Sussex County Council is leading on reforms to special educational needs.