09 November 2011

Northamptonshire has been chosen by the government to help test proposed changes to services for disabled children and those with special educational needs.

A partnership - made up of Northamptonshire County Council, Leicester City Council and their respective NHS primary care trusts - is among 20 national pathfinders chosen by the government to test out the main proposals in the special educational needs and disabilities Green Paper.

Northamptonshire and Leicester have both received government funding of £225,000 over two years for the pathfinder which will test core elements of reform, including:

  • a single education, health and care plan from birth to 25 years old, focusing on whether outcomes for disabled children, young people and their parents have been improved through this process
  • personal budgets for parents of disabled children and young people and those with SEN so they can choose which services best suit the needs of their children
  • the full engagement of children, young people and their families
    strong partnership between all local services and agencies
  • working together to help disabled children and those with SEN
    improved commissioning, particularly through links to health reforms
  • the role of voluntary and community sector organisations and parents in a new system
  • the cost of reform.

The project will involve the trialling of a single assessment process for children and young people with special educational needs - bringing together their education, social care and health needs and support in a single plan spanning birth to 25 years of age.

Councillor Andrew Grant, Northamptonshire County Council cabinet member for children, learning and skills, said: “The aim of the new model outlined in the Green Paper is to strengthen the joint responsibility and accountability between those organisations that provide services for children and young people with special education needs, learning disabilities and complex health needs, and their families.

“This is a very exciting opportunity to shape the future experiences of families and children and I’m delighted that the government has recognised that this partnership has the skills and expertise to put the proposed reforms to the test.”

The trial will directly involve a number of children, young people and their families in the pathfinder processes and investigate whether the use of a personal budget approach will give them more influence over the services the child or young person receives.

The project will work with a control group of around 100 children and young people across Northamptonshire and Leicester. Participants will be chosen following consultation with parents or carers to ensure their commitment to taking part in the 12 month trial.

The systems put into place as part of the pathfinder project will be developed and tested and the findings will be analysed. The existing statutory framework will remain in place during the timeframe of the project and al pathfinders will continue to work within this.

In addition to the small group of children, young people and families actively involved in the pilot, there will also be opportunities for more parents to be involved at different levels.

Announcing the pathfinders last month, Children’s Minister Sarah Teather, said: “We’re proposing the biggest reforms in 30 years to help disabled children and those with special educational needs so we need to make sure we get them right. It’s good to see that the overall response from parents, teachers and professionals is supportive of our vision for change.

“There are some interesting responses that will help us shape future policy decisions. For example, we can see that people think there should be a greater emphasis on meeting particular needs that emerge in school, just as much as identifying development problems in the early years.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how the pathfinders progress over the next few months to test out how we can make our proposed changes a reality.”

The children and young people in question will receive services from the full range of agencies so that engagement can be tested across all sectors:

  • Social Care
  • Behaviour Support
  • Educational Psychology
  • Residential and/ or community based short breaks.
  • Health visiting
  • Connexions
  • School Nursing
  • Speech Therapy
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Physiotherapy
  • Children’s acute and community nursing
  • Children’s continuing care services
  • General Practitioners
  • Acute and community paediatricians
  • Adult Services
  • Housing
  • Job Centre Plus