Children and Families Bill

Memorandum submitted by the Communication Trust (CF 49)

This submission sets out the collective view of The Communication Trust, a coalition of 47 voluntary organisations with expertise in speech, language and communication, on the Children and Families Bill. The Communication Trust is committed to working collaboratively and is a member of the Every Disabled Child Matters Campaign (EDCM); we endorse their briefing and through this paper add specific issues for speech, language and communication.

The Trust welcomes the Government’s overall vision to improve outcomes for children with SEN and we broadly support the intention of the clauses in Part 3 of the Bill. However, the Trust has specific concerns about the effect of some of the changes on the one million children and young people in the UK with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN), the most prevalent special educational need in primary-aged children.

Our overarching concerns are that:

1. The majority of children with SLCN do not currently have a statement for SEN and so would not receive an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan [1] ; these children must not be disadvantaged by a ‘Local Offer’ which does not meet their needs.

2. The clauses on the Local Offer are too weak to provide adequate reassurance that children with SLCN who do not qualify for an EHC plan will have their needs met. There is a lack of clarity on channels of accountability for the quality and delivery of the Local Offer. The absence of a statutory framework could result in geographical inequality.

3. Early Identification is the key to improving the education outcomes for children and young people with SLCN; the Trust has concerns over how the Bill will ensure that the mechanisms for identification will work in practice across all educational phases [2] and also on local authorities’ ability to identify needs as early as possible.

4. There is a lack of detail on how joint commissioning arrangements will work in practice, especially over how health services will be held accountable within these structures.

5. The Minister has not adequately addressed the issue raised by the Select committee for greater clarity on what provision will be made for pupils who currently receive support under the School Action and School Action plus categories.

6. We welcome the inclusion of Youth Offending Teams in the clauses around cooperation but we are extremely concerned that detained children and young people will not be covered despite the high incidence of SLCN in young people in the youth justice system.

7. With the creation of childminder agencies in Part 4, we are concerned how all children, including those in early years non-maintained settings are identified and receive the support they need.

Our solutions to these issues are:

· Local Offer: we support the Education Select Committee’s call for minimum standards for Local Offers, particularly to support pupils with low to moderate SEN without EHCPs. We agree with the Education Committee that standards should be set out in a common framework to ensure consistency and accountability. The Trust is working with partners to develop a framework on the key principles for the Local Offer to both inform the development of a framework and compare against any principles set out in the regulations.

· We were encouraged that the Children’s Minister promised that a ‘common framework’ for Local Offers will be set out in the regulations. This needs to be published before the Bill reaches the House of Lords so it is given sufficient scrutiny and can inform the debate about the Bill itself. We would also like to see a principle in place for Local Offers to regulated, so that these minimum standards may be assured.

· Identification: there should be stronger duties on local authorities to identify all the children and young people in its area who have or may have special educational need [1] and clarity on how they will work with other services to do so.

· The Green Paper clearer stated aspirations to address workforce development. These should be reflected in the Bill so that all members of the workforce have the skills and knowledge to identify pupils across all phases of education.

· All early years settings (including Private, Voluntary and Independent childcare settings) should included in the scope of the Bill and Code of Practice

· Joint-commissioning: we would like to see more detail on how these arrangements will work in practice, especially how health services will be held accountable. We welcome health authorities being given greater responsibility in early years settings, but we want this to be extended throughout the age range.

· The list of organisations that are stipulated to be part of joint commissioning arrangements should include Health and Wellbeing Boards; joint planning and commissioning must be joined up with further accountability and clarity over the structural links between the existing legally established coordination bodies.

· School Action/Action plus: Recent landmark research shows that a graduated approach to supporting children with SLCN is by far the most effective and must be based on a solid, universal, whole-school approach. We would like this evidence to be used to develop the Code of Practice and ensure that in losing School Action/Action plus, we do not lose the opportunity to meet the needs of children in the most effective and cost-efficient way.

· Youth Justice: we would like clarification on how detained children and young people will be supported as the scope of the legislation will not apply to them. This is of great concern considering the prevalence of SLCN amongst those in the youth justice system.

The Trust is committed to providing evidence-based, practical solutions and is working with our partners to develop a detailed response to the Local Offer, an area we are particularly keen to input into to ensure the best possible outcomes for children with SLCN.

The following pages contain detailed analysis on the likely impact of each clause on children and young people with SLCN and our suggestions for changes that would improve outcomes for these young people.

Detail on specific clauses

Definitions and scope (clauses 19-24)

1. The Trust is concerned that the provisions do not apply to disabled children or children with a specific need unless they require special educational provision. We believe that clause should be changed to include this wider group.

2. We are concerned that non-maintained early years provision (Private, Voluntary and Independent childcare settings) are not referenced throughout the document, which could lead to inconsistent duties on maintained and non-maintained providers.

3. We welcome the application of the draft legalisation to academies and free schools.

4. Identification: Early Identification is the key to improving the education outcomes for children and young people with SLCN, but the Trust has concerns over how the Bill will ensure that the mechanisms for identification will work in practice across all educational phases and we would like this clarified in the legislation. The Trust is especially concerned with how local authorities are going to identify SEN in non-maintained early years settings, especially giving these settings are educating an increasing proportion of children.

5. Research shows that early identification of SLCN across all educational phases provides the best opportunity to provide effective, cost-efficient interventions for children with SLCN, in some instances reducing the need for more costly, specialist support. In addition, research also shows that children with SLCN are often under-identified [1] and parents must have confidence that their children will not fall through gaps in the system. The Trust welcomes Clause 19, which ensures that local authorities must consider parents wishes. However, we have concerns over Clause 22, which stipulates that local authorities must exercise its functions ‘with a view to securing that it identifies all the children and young people in its area who have or may have SEN’. As this is such a crucial area of the journey for children with SLCN and their families, the Trust calls for the wording of this clause to be strengthened so that Local Authorities ‘must identify all the children and young people in its area who have or may have SEN’.

6. The Trust pressed strongly during the pre-legislative scrutiny phase of the legislation for the NHS to be given greater responsibility in identifying and supporting SEN. We therefore welcome new clause 24 which introduces a duty on CCGs and acute providers of care to inform the parent and Local Authority where they believe that a child below the age of five may have some form of SEN and to draw on the resources of the VCS to provide support and advice. We would however like to see this duty extended throughout the age range. This is particularly pertinent given that the Better Research Communication Programme (BCRP) stressed the importance of identification at different educational stages, given that SLCN often develops in later childhood or adolescence.

7. While recognising the importance of early identification in the early years, we are keen that this concept is applied across the age range. SLCN in children and young people is often not identified until their primary school, or even secondary school years when some difficulties may only just become apparent. It is essential to profile and monitor progress of children with SLCN in order to ensure needs are met [2] . Academies and free schools must also work pro-actively with local authorities to identify children with SEN. We are also concerned that the Bill does not fully address the issue of support for children 0 – 3 and their families, which is essential to prevent the language development of deaf children’s and those children with complex needs’ from being severely delayed.

Local integration and information (clauses 25-29)

8. Promoting integration: We consider that clause 25(1) should be strengthened to require local authorities not only to exercise its functions ‘with a view to’ ensuring the integration of special education provision with health provision and social care provision, but to review and improve that process, should it be found wanting.

9. With reference to clause 25(2), communication is fundamental to a child’s development, relationships, learning, attainment and future employability. Every child has a basic right to be understood and should be supported to do so [1] . Communication is crucial for well-being; we would therefore like to see ‘speech, language and communication needs’ added to the factors of well-being listed as additional sub-paragraph (h).

10. Joint commissioning: The Trust welcomes the requirement to introduce joint commissioning arrangements. The criteria for integrating services, however, need to be detailed and accurate. Jean Gross, whilst Communication Champion for Children and Young People, undertook extensive consultation work with local authorities, health trusts and government in order to provide detailed guidance on joint commissioning arrangements for SLCN. This process still found that, particularly for those children with mild and moderate SLCN, joint commissioning happened only in three out of 10 Local Authority areas.

11. It is essential that joint commissioning arrangements apply for all children with SEN and not just those with EHC plans. We would like to see further clarity on the duties for health providers over joint commissioning for those without EHC Plans.

12. Under clause 26.5, we would like to see ‘other provision’ to specify that joint commissioning arrangements ‘have regard to ensuring that the children and young people’s workforce have the appropriate knowledge, skills and understanding to support CYP with SEN and disabilities.’ This is particularly pertinent for the workforce supporting children with SLCN. Staff knowledge of SLCN is seen as crucial for parents and young people with SLCN. [2] Furthermore, it is an essential part of identification and currently the universal workforce has limited knowledge of SLCN and low confidence in identifying difficulties, particularly 'hidden' SLCN [3] [4] . Additionally, assessment of some children with SLCN may need detailed multidisciplinary assessment.

13. We would also like teachers that support pupils with SEN/SLCN to have specific training so they have the skills able to support their needs. We believe that it is important those specialists are involved in the support of children and schools for low incidence needs.

14. We would also call for the list of organisations that need to be part of the joint commissioning arrangements to be extended to include Health and Wellbeing Boards; joint planning and commissioning must be joined up with commissioning arrangements undertaken by Health and Wellbeing Boards with further accountability and clarity over the structural links between the existing legally established coordination bodies.

15. Duty to review: We would also like to see a requirement to involve parents and, where appropriate, young people in the duty set out in clause 27. One of the key findings of the Better Research Communication Programme was that the SLCN category should be reviewed as it is problematic in terms of reliably identifying groups of pupils with language learning needs and establishing their profile of difficulties.

16. Cooperating generally: The Trust has undertaken pioneering work with young people with communication needs in this sector. Research shows how young people with communication needs are disproportionally represented in the youth justice system, often due to the fact that their needs have not been identified or met [5] . We therefore welcome the change made by the Department for Education to include Youth Offending Teams under this clause

17. Health services as well as education services must be accountable within these structures. We are concerned that the local authority does not have to make arrangements for ensuring cooperation with health services and would like to see this included in clauses 27 and 28(3).

18. We welcome the inclusion of the National Health Service Commissioning Board in 28(2), a vital cooperation if the needs of children and young people who use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) are to be met.

19. Local offer: The Trust welcomes the principle of a Local Offer and is also pleased to see that the Government has moved to strengthen provisions after the Education Select Committee recommended the introduction of a National Framework underpinned by accountability measures. However, in welcoming the Government’s shift towards a Common Framework for the Local Offer, we believe that Parliament should be encouraged to scrutinise the detail of this very closely and in particular check to see whether the provisions currently set out under 30(8) and 30(9) that 'may become part of regulations' should instead form part of the clauses within the Bill.

20. The Trust has done further detailed work with its members on the Local Offer as we believe this to be an essential part of the legislation. We are also working with other partner organisations to develop generic principles that could support local authorities and give parents confidence in the process.

21. We want a stipulation in the Common Framework that Local Offers do not only set out low level services but also provide specialist services.

22. Many children with SLCN will not be eligible for an Education, Health and Care Plan and therefore will be reliant on the services set out in local authorities’ local offers. We want assurance in the Common Framework that the services available to those on the School Action and School Action Plus system, which is due to be abolished by the Bill, are set out in Local Offers.

23. As already shown, a significant number of children with SLCN do not currently have a statement for SEN and therefore would not receive an EHC plan [6] . We need to ensure that they receive the support they need which in many cases would have high efficacy and is very cost-effective. As the local authority is responsible for meeting these needs through the local offer, this part of the legislation needs to be strengthened with clear lines of accountability so that parents can be confident that they know who to turn to if they feel their children are not having their needs met.

24. The Local Offer must clearly indicate that it will support and dovetail with, any provision made from regional specialist commissioning, for example where a child or young people without an EHC plan requires a cleft lip and palate service that is provided regionally but also needs to access on-going local support through the Local Offer.

25. We are also concerned that the Local Offer may also disadvantage children with more severe or complex, low-incidence, high-cost needs (which include SLCN) since their needs are unlikely to be covered by the Local Offer.

26. Parents must also be made aware of the availability of provision outside their area (many maintained and non-maintained special schools whose catchment areas are very wide – in some cases national).

27. We also have specific concerns that there is no need to record the offer of previous years, which service providers will be part of the offer, the frequency with which the offer needs to be updated and the outcomes expected.

28. The Trust welcomes the requirement in clause 32 for a local authority to provide information and advice to parents and children about matters relating to SEN provision and believes that the VCS is part of this solution, through national and local signposting.

29. We would also call for 32 (2) to include providers of training and employment services and early years providers. The crucial importance of language and communication for children in the early years is well evidenced. Language development at age 2 has been shown to strongly predict children’s performance on entry to primary school [7] and is also linked to outcomes into adulthood [8] . Children with poor language skills in their early years are 6 times more likely to have reading difficulties [9] . Speech, language and communication needs impact on attainment, behaviour, social and emotional development [10]

Education, health and care needs assessment and EHC plans and personal budgets (clauses 33-48)

30. Education, health and care plans: The Trust welcomes the concept of multi-agency plans from birth to 25. However, we would like to see a new statutory duty to monitor for outcomes, involve schools more in their construction and ensure that health and social care services are accountable in the plans. The plans must also clearly specify how local provision will support, and dovetail with, any provision made from regional specialist commissioning, for example where a child or young person requires a communication aid [11] .

31. We have particular concerns around EHC plans with regards to early years. There are currently only 250 children in maintained nurseries England [12] with a statement of education need (0.6%); a small number compared to those in the first years of primary school, indicating under-identification or lack of places suitable for children with SEN. Research shows that early identification and support lead to the most effective and cost-efficient interventions. Language development starts from birth and some communication difficulties including deafness will either be picked up at birth or emerge in early years; we are concerned that the focus on EHC plans might reduce the specialist early years provision across all settings to ensure identification and intervention for any child that is struggling [13] .

32. We are also concerned that the draft legislation gives licence to a local authority to remove an EHC Plan when they so choose but does not give parents a clear right to appeal if health and social care services do not deliver on what has been promised. Parents should be integral to the decision making process.

33. We were pleased to see the Government listen to the concerns of the sector and put the right for parents to request an assessment on the face of the Bill in clause 36. This has reassured many who felt that this right was not there in the draft legislation despite it still existing in the 1996 Education Act. We are also pleased to see the Government change the legislation so an EHC Plan could be maintained for those young people not in education or training and those on Apprenticeships. We also want to ensure that the ‘local offer’ covers this important group of young people as well however.

34. Non maintained special schools: We welcome the provision to enable parents to name non maintained special schools on the EHC Plan.

35. Personal budgets: Our concern for support for SLCN is that what works best for many children is a graduated approach [14] – individual budgets might pay for a speech and language therapist to work directly with the child, but the wider package is dependent on a strategic holistic joined up approach which may be difficult to maintain with individual budgets.

36. This is an extremely complex area and we are concerned that if this is addressed through secondary legislation it will not have the appropriate scrutiny to ensure it best meets the needs of parents and families.

37. Regulations should be extended to include reference to the provision of key working support in the management of personal budgets.

Mediation (clauses 51-54)

38. The Trust is encouraged by that the Government has made mediation an option rather than compulsory. The Trust felt that, whilst mediation can obviously be a very useful solution, it was not right in all circumstances and we were pleased to see this changed in the Bill when presented at 1st Reading. We would however call for a quality standard for training for the ‘mediation advisor’ listed in clause 51 considering the significant powers they will have to determine the outcome of the mediation or to dictate how the appeal is made.

39. We also have concerns over how the requirement for parents to produce a certificate to prove they waived mediation may add to the bureaucratic burden on both parents and local authorities.

40. It is vital that there is also support for parents in terms of advocacy and to meet access needs as well as consideration of where there is conflict between parent and child.

SENCOs (clause 62)

41. We are concerned by the omission of duties by local authorities relating to the designation, provision and functions of SEN coordinators in non-maintained early years settings. This is particularly important considering the importance of early-identification and intervention and the issue of under-identification raised earlier under provisions 16-28, supporting work-force development.

SEN Code of Practice (clause 66)

42. The Trust welcomes the Government’s shift on this issue and their intention to lay the draft SEN Code of Practice before Parliament under the Negative Resolution procedure. However considering the importance of the SEN Code of Practice, which will contain the details of the legislation that are instrumental to addressing many of our concerns, we want to see the Code debated in Parliament.

Detained children and young people (clause 69)

43. We are extremely concerned that detained children and young people will not be covered despite the incidence of SLCN in those in the young justice system. We would like clarification on how young offenders will be supported should the scope of the legislation not apply to them, considering the prevalence of young offenders with SLCN [1] .

Creation of childminder agencies and the registration of childminders (Part 4)

44. The creation of childminder agencies links back to our first point on early identification, as it will lead to more children in early years non-maintained settings. We are concerned over how local authorities are going to identify SEN/SLCN in these settings. The duty on identification needs to be clarified.

45. There also needs to be assurance from the Government that childminder agencies will ensure staff are qualified to support children’s speech, language and communication development. Evidence shows that many early years staff feel inadequately equipped to help children with language delay with over 60% of teachers lack confidence in their ability to meet children’s language needs so a focus on a qualified workforce in SLC is vital.

March 2013

Appendix: Background information on Speech, Language and Communication Needs and the work of The Communication Trust

Background to SLCN

· As many as 10% of children in the UK – over 1 million - have speech, language and communication needs, which are not caused by language neglect, or by having English as an additional language or other external factors [1] . This means that in the average classroom, there are two or three children with such communication difficulties, which can be severe and long term.

· Of this group, a large cohort – between 5-7% of the child population - have specific language impairment (SLI), meaning that they have difficulties with acquiring, learning and using language that are not associated with factors such as general learning difficulties, or other conditions, such as cerebral palsy, hearing impairment or autistic spectrum disorders. A child with SLI might be bright, but struggle to hear, listen to and understand the language used in the classroom or use language to express themselves effectively, and thus struggle to attain and achieve. There is also impact on wider development through difficulties with interaction and social and emotional development.

· DfE annual SEN statistics demonstrate that SLCN is the most common type of primary need for pupils with SEN statements in maintained primary schools. In January 2011, 27.9% of pupils in maintained primary schools had SLCN registered as their primary need [2] .

· A further issue is that in areas of social deprivation upwards of 50% of children – equivalent to as many as 17 per classroom - are starting school with language delay [3] . This delay can be significant and impactful. And while their general cognitive abilities are in the average range for their age, their language skills are delayed. Evidence suggests these delays do not catch up and conversely can remain so into secondary school, impacting on literacy and more general attainment.

· At the end of primary school, although nearly 80% of all children achieve the expected level in English, just 25% of children with SLCN reach that level – a gap of almost 55%. The gap in Maths is 46% and in science it is 41%. At the end of Key Stage 4, the ‘attainment gap’ between children with SLCN and their peers is marked. Just 15% of children with SLCN achieve 5 GCSE A*-C or equivalent compared to 57% of all young people. Many of these children are cognitively as able as their peers.

· SLCN can easily be missed or misinterpreted; almost 90% of all children with SLCN will have some degree of literacy difficulty; a high proportion of children either excluded from school or at risk of exclusion have unidentified SLCN and more than 65% of young people in youth justice sector have communication needs, many of which have previously gone unidentified.

· Communication is an issue for all our young people; a skills survey from the Institute of Directors, reveals that businesses suffering skills shortages named communication skills as one of the most difficult skills to obtain, with 22% and 18% of businesses experiencing difficulties in recruiting people with oral and written communication skills respectively

Background to The Communication Trust

The Communication Trust is a coalition of 47 voluntary and community organisations with expertise in speech, language and communication. We harness our collective expertise to support the children’s workforce and commissioners to meet the speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) of all children and young people, particularly those with SLCN. We do this by raising awareness, providing information and workforce development opportunities, influencing policy, promoting best practice among the children’s workforce and commissioning work from our members. The Trust is advised by specialist advisors and works with a broader network of partners.

The Trust was founded in 2007 by children’s charities Afasic and I CAN together with BT and the Council for Disabled Children, to ensure that professionals can access the training and advice that they need to support the children they work with. We have developed a number of resources to support practitioners who work with children and young people and provide advice on speech, language and communication needs.

Speech language and communication skills are the foundation for other key life skills: learning, literacy, positive relationships and regulation of behaviour and emotions [1] . Speaking and listening skills underpin pupil outcomes; young people with good communication skills have a wider range of life chances [2] .

March 2013


[1] 86 % of all children with SEN do not have a statement.

[2] SLCN is often under-identified; a recent Trust project, Talk of the Town, evidenced that across a Federation of Schools, children and young people’s SLCN were under-identified by an average of 40%. The Better Communication Research Programme backs up the huge challenges that remain for universal staff in identifying SLCN, with a mismatch in research derived prevalence and identification in schools.

[1] For instance, Clause 22 stipulates that local authorities must exercise its functions ‘with a view to securing that it identifies all the children and young people in its area who have or may have SEN’. The Trust calls for the wording of this clause to be strengthened so that Local Authorities ‘must identify all the children and young people in its area who have or may have SEN’.

[1] Meschi, E., Micklewright J., Vignoles, Aand Lindsay, G. (2012) The transitions between categories of special educational needs of pupils with Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as they progress through the education system. Better Communication Research Programme.

[2] Dockrell, J., Ricketts, J., Palikara, O., Charman,T., and Lindsay, G., (2012) Profiles of need and provision for children with language impairments and autism spectrum disorders in mainstream schools: A prospective study. Better Communication Research Programme.

[1]

[2] Roulstone, S., and Lindsay, G. (2010) The perspectives of children and young people who have speech, language and communication

[2] needs, and their parents . Department for Education

[3] The BCRP in 2012 found d espite internationally accepted prevalence figures of 7%, only 3% of the school population is ever identified as having SLCN and very few schools purchased targeted interventions for SLCN

[4] For example, a 2007 YouGov survey commissioned by I CAN has shown that over a third of teachers had received no preparation for meeting the needs of children with SEN during ITT, and 73% had no SEN training that covered speech, language and communication. A 2006 Childcare and Early Years Providers Survey showed that training in speech and language was often given very low priority in early years settings, with some practitioners such as child minders, having no additional training in speech and language.

[5] At least 60% of young people who enter the youth justice system have communication needs. Bryan, K and Mackenzie J (2008), Meeting the Speech, Language and Communication Needs of Vulnerable Young People .

[6] SEN Information Act's 2011 analysis shows that of all children with School Action Plus/statements in primary, 18.9% are at School Action Plus for SLCN as a primary type of ne ed and 13.3% have a statement. T here is no data for School Action however, and many children with SLCN will not have that listed as their primary type of need, including many who may not have a statement (e.g. those with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Specific Learning Difficulties, Moderate Learning Difficulties, Hearing Impairment)

[7] Roulstone et al (2011), Investigating the role of language in Children’s Early educational outcomes Research report DFE – RR134

[8] Feinstein L (2003) Inequality in the Early Cognitive Development of British Children in the 1970 Economica vol 70

[9] Boyer E (1991) Ready To Learn , Carnegie Foundation, New Jersey

[10] Hartshorne M, (2006) The Cost to the Nation I CAN

[11] For example in the case of AAC, equipment will come from specialist regional commissionin g, but the local authority may provide the essential and ongoing support and ancillary services, which are essential to ensure that a child can actually learn how to use the equipment and be taught appropriately. It is essential that the ongoing local support must dovetail with regional specialist provision.

[12] SEN Information Act's 2011 analysis , published January 2012.

[13] We welcome the extension of statutory provision to birth, in some instances such as with deafness, this may require specialist support in the home as well as early years settings.

[14] Lindsay, G., Dockrell, J., Law, J., and Roulstone, S (2012) The Better Communication Research Programme: Improving provision for children and young people with speech, language and communication needs

[14]

[1] At least 60% of young people who enter the youth justice system have communication needs. Bryan, K and Mackenzie J (2008), Meeting the Speech, Language and Communication Needs of Vulnerable Young People .

[1] I CAN, The Cost to the Nation of Children’s Poor Communication (2006) and Law et al (2000) Provision for children’s speech and language needs in England and Wales: facilitating communication between education and health services DfES research report 23

[2] DfE S EN Information Act, 2011 Analysis

[3] Basic Skills Agency, Summary Report into Young Children’s Skills on Entry to Education (2002). Also Locke and Ginsborg, Development and Disadvantage: Implications for Early Years IJCLD Vol 27 No 1 (2002)

[1] Silva P, Williams S & McGee R, (1987): A Longitudinal Study of Children with Developmental Delay at age three years; later intellectual, reading and behaviour problems . Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology 29, 630 – 640

[2] Improving Achievement in English Language in Primary and Secondary Schools (2003) HMIE

Prepared 20th March 2013