3 Provision from birth to 25|
38. During our inquiry, we heard widespread and enthusiastic
support for a statutory framework for SEN that works for children
and young people from birth to 25 years of age. As parent witness
Carol Dixon said, "absolutely, it is fantastic that it goes
up to 25", explaining that "At 16, [my daughter] had
to leave school. Her school did not have a sixth form that could
cater for her needs; therefore, the local authority had no responsibility
for her whatsoever after that time".
Notwithstanding this general welcome for the extension, witnesses
expressed a certain degree of concern regarding funding for the
new framework and the impact it may have on finances for post-16
education, and provision for 19-25 year olds. We examine these
Funding and post-16 education
39. We questioned the Minister as to how a new birth
to 25 system for SEN would be funded He told us:
we have two systems. We have the SEN system up to
16; then we have the LDA system from 16 onwards. They are all
currently funded and that money will still be available for the
new system. It is not trying to have less funding available for
a longer period of a young person's need. Ultimately, this is
about ensuring that more work done early ensures better outcomes
for young people with special educational needs and disability,
and therefore makes important savings.
the purpose of these reforms is not to save money;
in fact, the spending on SEN funding has gone up from £2.7 billion
in 2004-05 to £5.7 billion in 2010-11. There is a significant
amount of money being spentall the way through from nought
to 25 [...] It is also right to point out that post-16 funding
has actually increased in the last few years. We have made commitments
to the early years in relation to the twoyear-old offer
and the early support.
40. The Association of Colleges pointed out that
"the legislation is being introduced at the same time as
the DfE is carrying out a major overhaul in the way that 16-18
education is being funded and a £640 million budget for 16-25
year olds with a disability is being used. Colleges have some
concerns whether these changes will leave them unable to meet
the needs and expectations of their existing students, particularly
as there is also a significant change to the way in which additional
learning support funds are allocated for those with lower level
needs". Di RobertsPrincipal
of Brockenhurst Collegeclarified this, explaining that
the £640 million
will go into the block of funding for 'high needs'.
It will not, however, be ring-fenced for young people aged over
16. The legislation says that local authorities will have to take
into account someone's age if they are aged 18 or over when assessing
their needs and developing an Education, Health and Care Plan.
This lack of ring-fence and legislative 'get-out' means we have
real fears that young adults will lose out, and that Colleges
will be left with reduced funding with which to meet the needs
of students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities.
Di Roberts added: "this is happening alongside
changes to the 16-18 funding methodology and changes to the way
in which money is allocated for students with lower schools qualifications.
We have very real concerns that these two changes taken together
and without any trialling, could destabilize provision for vulnerable
young people". 
41. Di Roberts also shared Blackpool Council's concern
that, whilst funding for post-16 provision is being provided,
there is no funding to support the increased capacity that will
be required to deliver these functions in local authorities.
The Association of Colleges points out that the administration
of a system which operates from birth to 25 will create additional
bureaucratic burdens on colleges as "they will be required
to deal with multiple local authorities, each of which will have
their own systems and processes".
42. The Association of Colleges concludes that "it
is crucial that Further Education and Sixth Form Colleges are
fully involved in all aspects of trialling the reforms. There
is little evidence that the Pathfinders are working with Colleges
and this must be rectified as a priority".
43. We commend
the Government's increased spending on supporting pupils with
SEN but are concerned at claims that the SEN Pathfinders are failing
to involve colleges adequately in trialling the approaches for
0-25 provision described in the draft clauses. We seek reassurances
that this shortcoming will be addressed in the extended Pathfinder
schemes so as to understand fully the financial and administrative
impact the proposals will have on colleges and local authorities
in securing provision for pupils with SEN up to the age of 25.
The Government must ensure that the extension of the statutory
SEN framework from 16 to 25 is not allowed to extend provision
for some at the expense of the quality and quantity of provision
Provision for 19-25 year olds
44. In her letter to the Committee, former Minister
Sarah Teather explained that "staying in education or training
until they are 25 may not be in the best interest of a young person.
But some people with special educational needs require longer
than others to make the transition to adult life and it is important
that local authorities are able to continue an Education, Health
and Care Plan until a young person's 25th birthday
if that is what they need".
45. For these reasons, clauses 16 and 17 of the draft
legislation state that "in forming an opinion [as to whether
to undertake an assessment or prepare an Education Health and
Care Plan] in relation to a young person aged over 18, a local
authority must have regard to his or her age". The Association
of National Specialist Colleges views these clauses as a potential
"disincentive to continuing the EHC plan; we have concerns
that young people and their parents will be put under pressure
not to seek post-18 education placements. We understand the intention
behind this clause, but we believe there are many good reasons
for young people to stay in learning beyond 18".
46. Along with several other witnesses, Hampshire
County Council offers an alternative view, saying "although
it is assumed that the new system is not intended to give an entitlement
to education up to the age of 25 there is already evidence of
parental assumption that it will. Independent providers are setting
up 19-25 provision in anticipation of new business. LAs simply
do not have the resources to meet this demand. If this section
of the legislation is not clarified then more time will be spent
in Tribunals arguing about placements. In times of financial constraint
there will be tensions between Children's Services, Adult Services
and Health Services if the anticipated client group for this extended
period is not clearly defined in the primary legislation".
47. Evidence from the Nottinghamshire SEN Pathfinder
builds on Hampshire's analysis, explaining that:
Local authorities will wish to see [...] young people
move on to independent living and work as quickly as possible
and not to seek to remain in full-time learning without a clear
reason and route towards independence and employment. Local authorities
will therefore want to seek sufficient flexibility to provide
access to education that promotes independent living and to supported
employment where this is needed.
48. The Association of Colleges pointed out some
perverse incentives within the proposed system, arguing that "With
regards to rights and protections for 19-25 year-olds, [...] the
legislation does not clarify who is responsible for young people
over the age of 18":
The issue of who is 'responsible' for 19-25 year
olds requires clarification. Existing legislation states that
the Department for Education, the EFA and local authorities are
responsible if the young person has a Learning Difficulty Assessment.
There are concerns that a) local authorities won't have to provide
an EHCP and b) there will be an effort to secure EHCPs in order
to ensure students fall under the remit of the DfE/EFA as this
is more comprehensive than that provided by the Department for
Business, Innovation and Skills, which funds adult education and
training at a lower rate and fee remission rules apply which currently
mean that students could be subject to fees if they can't progress
to level 2 (equivalent of five A*-C grade GCSEs).
49. The Association of College's written evidence
also points out that "the proposed legislation needs to link
with Raising the Participation Age legislation which says that
the local authority is responsible for the young person to 18
or 25 with a learning difficulty assessment. The proposals will
need, therefore, to include those in jobs with accredited training
as well as apprentices".
This was supported by parents giving oral evidence to our inquiry.
We address the issue of apprenticeships later in this report.
50. We are concerned
that a potentially confusing picture is emerging over responsibility
and rights for 19 to 25 year olds. Some stakeholders are interpreting
the new system as providing guaranteed education for all young
people with SEN to 25 years of age. This is doubtful. However,
although it is more likely that the priority for the majority
of young people with SEN (in particular, those with an EHCP) will
be to move post-18 into independent living and employment, for
some young people with an EHCP education will be the best route.
It is vital that the responsibility, funding and, where appropriate,
access to advocacy for these young people is clarified so that
all those involved know what they can expect from the new provisions
and who is accountable for providing it. If the purpose of the
legislation is to extend education as a right to 25, then the
Government needs to make that clear and fund that; if not, then
that should also be made clear.
51. We seek
reassurance that the extension of approaches for 0-25 provision
will also address the needs of young people pursuing higher education.
49 Ev 26 Back
Ev 74 Back
Ev 77 Back
Qq35-6, Kathryn Boulton Back
Ev 74 Back
Ev 74;Q6 Back
Ev w489 Back
Ev w225 Back
Ev N119, para 12.2 Back
Ev 74 Back
Q 173, Carol Dixon Back
See paragraph 97 Back