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consultations Department for Education SEND Review

SEND Green Paper – response from the NNPCF

The long awaited SEND Green Paper was published this morning. In this article, the NNPCF steering group present their initial response and analyse where the Green Paper delivers what parent carer forums had asked for, where it doesn’t go far enough and where we have significant concerns.

You can find the Green Paper here: SEND review: right support, right place, right time – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

You can also download a copy of this response here:

Introduction

The SEND review has been a long time in the making. It was originally launched in the summer of 2019. Delayed by general elections, government reshuffles and Covid 19, it represents an opportunity to reset and further reform the SEND system following the 2014 Children and Families Act..

The NNPCF have had a lot of input into the SEND review. When it was initially launched in 2019, the SEND review team met with the NNPCF steering group several times and they attended our 2019 conference where we devoted a whole afternoon to coproducing the NNPCF input. NNPCF conference gives SEND Review seven clear messages – National Network of Parent Carer Forums C.I.C

Following this the NNPCF steering group continued to engage with the SEND review and at our conference last year we presented our views on how the SEND system needed to change

We updated this at our conference last week

In Autumn 2021, the SEND review was re-set following the pandemic and NNPCF co-chairs Tina Emery and Mrunal Sisodia were invited to join the reconstituted steering group. After careful deliberation, the NNPCF board decided that Tina and Mrunal should join the Review Steering Group once we had been satisfied that it was an opportunity to coproduce solutions and not just rubber stamp proposals. This group first met in late 2021.

In this paper, we step through the key things we have asked for from the SEND review and assess to what extent it delivers on this. We will also look at some areas that the Green Paper is proposing things that we did not ask for and we disagree with.

Context

The SEND review cannot be seen in isolation. There are three other major pieces of legislation / policy in train that will have a major impact upon the lives of children and young people with SEND. They are:

The Schools White Papera major change in legislation for schools. This was released yesterday – you can find it here (Opportunity for all: strong schools with great teachers for your child – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)). It focuses on quality of teaching, standards, targeted support and the schools’ system. We will publishing our initial response to the White Paper shortly.

The Children’s Social Care Reviewthis independent review is being run by Josh MacCallister. The NNPCF has had extensive engagement with the review NNPCF input into children’s social care review – National Network of Parent Carer Forums C.I.C including hosting a webinar The Children’s Social Care Review – “The Case for Change”

The Health and Care Bill – the bill that will establish Integrated Care Systems to replace clinical commissioning groups. The NNPCF have done a lot of work with NHSE to understand the changes and what they will mean for children and young people with SEND and parent carer forums.

We will be publishing an update on the Health and Care Bill in the next few days.

What is wrong with the SEND system

Before any solutions, there needs to be a clear understanding of the problem. The DfE Green Paper adopts the problem analysis as put forward by parent carer forums.

The 2014 SEND reforms were based on the right principles – coproduction, person centred services and joint working. However, they were implemented into an environment that meant that they could not be effectively implemented. The problems included:

  • Incentives and accountability of leaders
    • Schools aren’t incentivised to be inclusive
    • SEND is too often a low priority across health and social care
    • Poor accountability and few consequences for failure
  • Leaders, managers and staff aren’t equipped and supported to deliver
    • They don’t know the law
    • The system hasn’t made the cultural changes needed
  • Money – There just isn’t enough money in the system and the money that is in the system isn’t being used effectively
  • Not enough coproduction is taking palace – both strategic and individual

This has led to a vicious circle of services not listening to families and seeking to protect scarce resources or prioritising other measures (e.g. school league tables). This leads to families not getting the services they need and because accountability and redress in the system is confused more time passes which results in the situation worsening whilst trust declines and anger increases.

We are pleased that the SEND review has agreed with and adopted this problem analysis.

What needs to change?

Based on this, forums outlined seven things they said needed to change at the 2019 NNPCF conference. These are:

These are the things that parent carer forums believe need to change. We need to coproduce with the system to identify the levers that will actually deliver these changes.

How do we change it?

Following on from this, the NNPCF steering group worked with system partners (most notably the Department for Education and NHSE) to identify the practical steps that needed to be taken to deliver these changes..

We identified five key areas:

In the remainder of this paper, we analyse where we got what we asked for, where we have had partial success and / or need more clarity and the areas that we are very concerned about.

The Green Paper contains a lot of what we asked for

A set of minimum standards

The Green Paper proposes to create a single national SEND system with national standards and promises to review the SEND code of practice to ensure it is fit for purpose. There will be a standardised and digitised EHCP process and templates. We would like to see this go a little further and specify the reasonable adjustments that children and young people can expect.

Clarity on joint commissioning and who pays for what

It will establish new local SEND partnerships across education, health and care that must produce a local inclusion plan. There will be greater clarity on who pays for what based upon more rigorous understanding and analysis of local needs that is coproduced with families. This will formalise the joint planning, working, and commissioning that is needed in the system.

There is a greater focus on workforce development in schools

The Green Paper proposes the introduction of a new NECO NPQ in schools and increase the number of SEND qualified staff in schools. This needs to go further and include health and social care practitioners as well and must ingrain the values of coproduction.

A greater focus on implementation

The Green Paper proposes a National SEND delivery plan. One of the failings of the 2014 reforms was inadequate planning and focus on how the reforms would be implemented. Because the key data gathered focussed on the conversion of statements to EHCP, this became the objective of the reforms. We welcome the role of a new national SEND Delivery Board to oversee this process.

The additional money going into the system

The Green Paper outlines more money to be spent on education generally and SEND in particular. This is much needed investment – we have consistently been calling for more money in the SEND system and for it to be spent more effectively.

There are many areas where we need more clarity

We do not understand how responsibilities, powers, accountability and regulation will work in the new system.

We welcome the increased focus on accountability in the Green Paper and we are encouraged by the new requirements on ICSs in the latest version of the Health and Care Bill. However, we do not yet have sufficient clarity on how powers, responsibilities, accountability, and regulatory oversight will be organised across local authorities, schools, DfE regional directors (replacing schools commissioners) and health systems. There is a danger that in a confused system, the needs of children and families are lost. This was one of the greatest failings of the 2014 reforms, the perverse incentives and mis-aligned accountability in the system meant that different commissioners and providers did not prioritise or work together effectively enough.

New national system of banding and price tariffs

The Green Paper proposes a new national system of funding and tariffs which will include funding levels for all provisions including the independent special school sector. We do not know how this will work – whilst we welcome greater clarity on funding arrangements and bandings, we must ensure that the bandings and tariffs set are sufficient to meet needs and do not discourage education, health and care providers from supplying these services that families need.

We do not know how the new redress process will work

Currently, too many families have to go to tribunal to get what they are entitled to. Streamlining the redress process to prevent this from being necessary is clearly welcomed. But without further clarity on how mandatory mediation and independent review will work, we fear that families could still end up in tribunal but simply having had to wait even longer. If mediation and independent review is to work, it must be shown to be truly objective and must have some powers to compel local authorities, schools, health and care services to follow rulings.

Relationship with other key pieces of legislation and policy development

It is hard to assess the impact of the SEND Green Paper on its own. Much of the environment in which it will operate will be determined by the Schools White Paper, the outcome of the Independent Review into Children’s Social Care and the Health and Care Bill. We must ensure that the system created for children and young people with SEND is coherent across all of these areas of policy development – most notably the incentives, powers and responsibilities of different players across the system – for example, the schools White Paper must stipulate that a good school is a truly inclusive school.

There are some things we are concerned about

We are very worried about the process for naming a place with an EHCP

The Green paper will amend the process for naming a place within an EHCP, enabling parents to name a preference from a tailored list of appropriate settings.   

We understand that this is an attempt to cap spiralling costs of expensive specialist provision. The root cause of cost pressures on the system are a result of inadequate services that force families to seek more specialised support for their children. At a minimum these lists must be coproduced with parent carer forums and individual tailored lists must be coproduced with families. Most importantly, families must retain the right of redress through mediation or tribunal in the case of a disagreement (as they do now).

The Green Paper is silent on those young people not destined for further education, training or work.

The Green Paper focusses very heavily on educational and employment outcomes. Whilst we welcome the ambition, we must recognise there is a proportion of young people with SEND for whom that is not the right outcome (e.g. those with complex needs). The Paper must recognise the need to provide the right outcomes (e.g. independent or supported living) for this group.

Not enough about Health and Social Care

The Green paper is very focussed on schools and local authorities. It says little on health and care providers and commissioners. If we are to create a joined up system, we must have clarity on what is expected from other key sectors.

Next steps

The Green Paper is a consultation document. The consultation will run for 13 weeks and close on 1st July 2022.

The Department for Education has committed to holding a national event with the NNPCF and events in each of the regions for parent carer forums to feed into the consultation.

In addition, we will be hosting independent events to gather PCF views. We will share details of these are they are set up – there will be a mixture of regional and national events.

We are also working on a large parental survey with other parental groups such as Special Needs Jungle, the Disabled Children’s Partnership and Let us Learn Too. We want to gather thousands of parental views on the proposals and ensure that the parental voice is loud and clear and cannot be ignored through the consultation process. We will be sharing the survey in the next few weeks.

We will also continue to coproduce with the Department for Education and other partners through this period. In particular:

  • We have asked the DfE to ensure that the powers, responsibilities, incentives and accountability of ALL of the commissioners and providers in the new proposed system are understood and mapped. These must also be tested with individual case studies to see how children and young people will be treated in the new system.
  • We must also continue to monitor the development of the Schools White Paper, the Health and Care Bill and the Independent Review into Children’s Social Care and understand the impact this will have on the SEND system.

Appendix 1: How do we change the SEND system?

The detail from the NNPCF “Skunkworks” sessions.

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