Children and Families Bill

Memorandum submitted by ISCG (CF 15)

1. Clause 26: Joint commissioning arrangements

There should be some specification of national basic requirements to meet children and young people’s special educational, health and social needs under EHCPs. Schools, health and local authorities must be required to provide certain levels of provision for pupils with EHCPs and other children and young people with specific needs. (There must be some basic level playing field!)

The requirements to review and publish local provision will also be severely constrained if there is not a basic national requirement specified by law.

2. Clause 30: Local offer

Parents, schools and other agencies should have a right of appeal if they consider that their local offer does not meet local needs. Having a EHCP stating special needs will be of no use to them if there is not access to the appropriate specialist support where required.

3. Clause 34: Children and young people with SEN but no EHC Plan

It is inconsistent and inappropriate for Special Academies to offer pupils without a EHCP a place, whilst mainstream special schools may only admit pupils with a plan.

4. Assessment, preparation and Implementation of EHC Plans (Clauses 36-44)

This Bill omits all time limits or requirements for professional advice on the above. This means that parents and young people could be left in a "limbo land" of waiting for notification without any right to challenge the delays and/or the quality of the assessment. In effect at present LA have no mandatory duty to deliver and unless a parent appeals does not have to justify its view. This seems particularly peculiar as the original Green Paper expressed concern about such bureaucratic delays.

It also does not give children and young people the same education rights of assessment and provision for health and social care. This is still legally an "education only" plan even though it is being renamed EHCP. It is likely in these difficult funding constrained times that therapies such as speech and language are moved under health provision allowing the LA to require families to seek them under health provision and weakening their legal right of access.There is no legal obligation on health to make these provisions and there is no single place of appeal to all contents of an EHCP. The first tier tribunal will only be able to rule on education needs.

5. Clause 48: Personal Budgets

We are concerned that personal budgets will mitigate against the establishment of a wide range of specialist provision as individual parents may not wish to access available provision or may find that there is not sufficient funding to cover the costs of the provision they want. There is no requirement for a LA to secure any particular provision, as pointed out previously. Also, many voluntary organisations providing good local specialist support will not be able to survive such an idiosyncratic, market orientated climate, thereby reducing choice rather than increasing it.

The experience of the pilot authorities suggests that allowing parents personal budgets discriminates against poor and ethnic minority families who do not have the time or "know-how to work the system.

6. Clause 66: Code of Practice

"Take account of" should be deleted and replaced by "act in accordance with" ( see, subsections 4 and 6). This will b e a much stronger legal duty on First Tier Tribunals and other people and bodies mentioned to carry out their function according to the requirements stated in the Code of Practice. It is a necessary protection for children and families.

March 2013

Prepared 8th March 2013