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Minister for children and families SEND Review

NNPCF Steering Group meeting with Minister Will Quince

On Tuesday 18th January the NNPCF Steering group met with the Parliamentary Undersecretary for Children and Families Minister Will Quince.

It was a 45-minute meeting where we gave the Minister stories of why and what we need to be included into the SEND review. The subjects included:

  • The importance of national clarity about what should be ordinarily available and how this feed into every aspect of a child and young person’s outcomes.

o What happens when these ordinarily services available aren’t clearly set out.

o The importance of services working together, our example was transport

o How local variations can damage outcomes and services

  • The need for clear accountability in the system, between local authorities, schools and regional schools commissioners
  • The need for listening to families on local decisions and the importance of coproduction at all levels.

We want to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to feed into the review and the consultation that follows. We have asked that communications for the consultation is made clear and the process that follows.

We have offered to support the communications, to enable as many people to engage with the consultation as much as possible.

Jo Gilliland, the NNPCF steering group member for the North East said after the meeting, ““We are all aware of the need for clear accountability in the system between local authorities, schools and regional schools commissioners, I had the opportunity to inform Minister Quince of a situation within my region (North East & Cumbria) where the impact of the lack of accountability, is having wide reaching implications for a cohort of young people and their families. Not only is this situation leading to distress, but the reality of the situation is such that there may not be any further suitable post 16 provision in borough, which in turn leads to families seeking more costly suitable provision (and transport) out of borough. The impact upon the education, life skills, peer relationships, mental

health and future prospects of these young people is great, especially if no suitable provision can be found. Minister Quince, agreed that systems need to be held accountable for such decisions and the need to work together jointly to ensure accountability is paramount.”

Sarah Clarke, the NNPCF steering group member for the South East commented that, “The Minister too was onboard with how a well-defined Ordinarily Available improves how local services work together, increases family’s confidence when speaking to services and allocates clear areas of responsibility across the services.”

To see our SEND review updates, check out: https://nnpcf.org.uk/?s=send+review

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Minister for children and families

What we need from the SEND review: NNPCF co-chairs brief Children and Families Minister Will Quince

NNPCF co-chairs Tina Emery and Mrunal Sisodia met with the new Children and Families Minister Will Quince to brief him on what parent carers want from the SEND review.

Tina and Mrunal started by outlining the key messages from parent carer forums about the lived experience of families with SEND in the current environment: a lack of early intervention; poor experiences of children in mainstream schools; long waits for services and assessment; disappointing quality EHCPs and missing provision and prospects when young people leave education.

The NNPCF have done a lot of work with parent carer forums on identifying the root causes of these experiences and what we can do to fix them. We talked to Minister Quince about the need for enforceable national minimum standards for services, aligning the incentives for schools, local authorities and health services to be inclusive (e.g. funding flows, inspection, data collected and league tables) and the shortages of money, capacity and skills in the system. You can find more detail on our work in these areas here: Latest developments on the SEND Review – National Network of Parent Carer Forums C.I.C (nnpcf.org.uk)

We also urged Minister Quince to ensure that the SEND review did not dilute the rights of parent carers and children and young people in any way.

The Minister welcomed our input and promised to continue the dialogue with the NNPCF including coming to meet the wider NNPCF steering group in the coming weeks and months.

The SEND review is entering a critical phase and Tina and Mrunal have been invited to sit on the review Steering Group. We will keep you posted on developments and further Ministerial meetings.

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Department for Education DfE guidance Minister for children and families NNPCF work

Powers of the SEND tribunal to make non-binding recommendations extended

The government has confirmed that the single route redress national trial will end in August (it had been extended because of Covid 19). In line with the recommendations of the trial, the government has confirmed that the powers of the tribunal to make non-binding recommendations on health and social care will continue. Children and Families Minister Vicky Ford has written to members of the Single Route of Redress Steering Group to confirm this decision and thank them for their efforts. We attach a copy of the letter;

The NNPCF has worked extensively on this project as a member of the steering group and outside. We have consistently argued that the powers of the tribunal to make judgements on health and social care services was necessary and a positive step towards increased accountability and protecting the rights of children with SEND. We also maintain that the judgements on health and social care should be made binding.

You can find more on our work on this topic here NNPCF work to improve accountability in the SEND system – National Network of Parent Carer Forums C.I.C

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Department for Education Minister for children and families

Minister Ford’s open letter on return to school

Children and Families Minister Vicky Ford has put out an open letter to all families on the return to school.

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Minister for children and families

Minister Vicky Ford’s open letter to the SEND community

Yesterday Minister Vicky Ford released an open letter to Children and Young people with SEND, their families and those who support them.

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Minister for children and families

Your back to school experiences – NNPCF Steering Group brief Minister Vicky Ford

September 23, 2020

The NNPCF steering group met with Children and Families Minister Vicky Ford to share the feedback from parent carer forums about the return to school for children with SEND.

Ahead of the meeting, parent carer forums continued their outstanding work in listening to the experiences of local families. We heard of concerns around a wide variety of topics including Aerosol Generating Procedures (AGP), over-zealous schools send children with colds home, local and school lockdowns and access to testing.

We attach a briefing document that summarises the issues that was shared with the Minister ahead of our meeting. Return to school feedback 17 09 2020

We had a wide-ranging discussion with the Minister and explored many of the themes in the document. Some of the things we discussed included:

  • Concerns around AGP – the Minister reported that she had met with Directors of Children’s Services and urged them to work with local Public Health England to ensure children requiring AGPs can attend school
  • Issues around testing – The Minister recognised the experiences of SEND families in accessing testing – she promised to look at some further prioritisation for testing for people with disabilities. She also reported that a new process has recently been created to enable schools to order more tests every few weeks and that teachers have been added to the priority list for testing.
  • We discussed the concerns of parents about mandatory attendance at schools in a local lockdown and urged her to continue to share the messages about coproducing with families to find the right answer for their circumstances.
  • The DfE had also noted the increase in requests for home schooling – we discussed the risks that families should not be pushed into “elective” home schooling against their wishes and the need for Ofsted to remain vigilant about off-rolling through the back door.
  • We discussed some of the challenges around the restoration of health services and the importance of schools allowing therapists in to deliver the support children require.
  • We also noted that some of our earlier concerns around behaviour related exclusions and mental health problems had not yet been widely reported. However, we all noted that it was still early days and that the full impact of Covid 19 has not yet been understood or felt in this regard.

We also touched on the ongoing SEND review and agreed to meet with the Minister and the SEND review team in the coming weeks to discuss progress and plans.

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Minister for children and families

NNPCF cochairs discuss parental issues with Minister Vicky Ford

On Monday 6th July, NNPCF cochairs Tina Emery and Mrunal Sisodia met with Children and Families Minister Vicky Ford to discuss the feedback from parent carer forums during the Covid 19 pandemic.

The Minister thanked the NNPCF for compiling what she described as the “bubble document” which you can find a copy of here:

She commented that this paper confirmed many of the issues that she had been hearing about through other sources in the SEND system, particularly the difficulties being faced by many families in getting their children with SEND back into schooling.

The main topic of conversation was what the sector needed to do to ensure that children with SEND were able to return to school in September.

  • Tina and Mrunal emphasised the importance of clear communication that was based on the science of Covid 19 and its very limited impact on children. We emphasised the need to better explain bubbles and the system of protective measures that schools are being asked to put in place. We told the Minister that the communication needed to come from trusted sources such as the NHS and teachers and therapists.
  • We also discussed the challenges that school transport posed for children with SEND. We told the Minister that local areas should coproduce with parents about what transport arrangements worked for them. Our concern is that unless transport is prioritised, many SEND pupils will not be able to return to school.
  • The Minister noted Tina’s concern about the clarity of guidance for young people with SEND in further education.

We also raised the SEND review with the Minister and asked her to ensure that, as the country starts to recover from Covid 19, the SEND review gets the appropriate focus. In our view, the Covid pandemic has highlighted and further deepened the gaps in provision and outcomes for children with SEND. We reiterated the key points that we had made in our initial input into the SEND review that you can find here http://www.nnpcf.org.uk/nnpcf-conference-gives-send-review-seven-clear-messages/

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Minister for children and families

Minister Vicky Ford thanks parent carer forums for their work in the Covid 19 pandemic

Ahead of the release of new guidance on school re-opening, the Children and Families Minister Vicky Ford met with representatives of the SEND sector to thank them for their work.

She singled out the work of parent carer forums for praise in highlighting the way in which risk assessments had been used by some schools to prevent the return of children and young people with SEND.

She also noted the work that the NNPCF and others had done in ensuring that the rights of pupils with SEND had been reflected in the guidance with regards to:

  • Support for any behavioural problems
  • Support for families to enable attendance
  • Ensuring that schools were required to deliver full provision for children with SEND and that the Coronavirus Act easements are lifted as soon as possible
  • The challenges that school transport poses during this period (although she recognised that more work needs to be done here)

NNPCF co-chairs Tina Emery and Mrunal Sisodia also raised the need to ensure that schools understood that catch up funding for disadvantaged pupils was made available for SEND and that it should include services used by SEND children such as therapy services and educational psychologists and not just focus on academic catch up. Tina and Mrunal advised the Minister to join up with DMO and DCO forum on this work and raised the need for clearer guidance for those young people with SEND in further education and the growing need for respite services for families who had had no break from caring since March.

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Department for Education Minister for children and families

NNPCF Steering Group meeting with Vicky Ford, Minister for Children and Families

NNPCF Steering Group meeting with Vicky Ford, Minister for Children and Families: COVID 19 and what needs to change with the SEND system

On Wednesday 18th March, the NNPCF steering group met with Children and Families Minister Vicky Ford. Because of COVID 19 restrictions, the meeting was a video-conference.

COVID 19

The Minister was keen to talk about the Education response to COVID 19.

Earlier this week, we issued shared the paper we had sent to the Department for Education and NHS England (add link). This was compiled following feedback from forums to regional steering group members and from discussions we have seen on our closed social media groups.

In our meeting with the Minister we re-iterated the key messages in the paper – namely that they could not take a blanket approach to children and young people with special educational needs and emphasised the key points:

  • The importance of supporting our families to have choice and control as much as is possible to protect their families in the most appropriate way.
  • We relayed the critical role schools/colleges and residential placements can play in some of our children lives and how it would be helpful for some families to continue to access the often vital support this can provide their children.
  • Alongside this we also posed the concerns about access to medical support and social care when services are also suffering from limitations of staff and restrictions due to isolations. We are pleased to see the recommendations
  • Finally, we urged the Minister to continue to coproduce the government response with the NNPCF

It is clear there is a challenging road ahead, and as we learn more about the pandemic advice will continue to evolve. We feel the best way we can support families is to reiterate to the DfE, NHSE, and Ministers the importance of clear and concise messages. We are pleased to see the recommendations we asked be considered have been heard and have influenced recent government proposals.

The NNPCF are listening to the concerns forums are sharing, both from within your communities and from within the forum itself. We are all impacted by the current situation in a variety of ways and are rightly concerned and trying to ensure our families are kept safe and well during this difficult time. We also recognise there will be ongoing challenges for forums which we are raising with the DfE and Contact. We are continuing to be in contact with the DfE and NHSE, we will keep you informed about what we are saying and hearing.

Please keep on telling us of how the response to COVID 19 is playing out in your areas. You can contact your regional NNPCF steering group member or post something on the NNPCF closed facebook page and we will incorporate it into our dialogue with the DfE and NHSE.

The SEND Review

We also talked to the Minister about our submission to the SEND review (insert link). She had read our paper and was interested in many of the key messages we have given the review.

We gave the Minister real examples of where children and young people were being let down by the system because of the failings we describe in our report. We also shared examples from across the country where the recommendations from our report had been implemented. We showed how coproduction with families does lead to greatly improved services and outcomes. The Minister promised to continue to work with us and keep us informed on the progress of the review.

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Department for Education Minister for children and families

NNPCF Co-chairs meet with new Children and Families Minister

On Wednesday 26th February, NNPCF Co-chairs Tina Emery and Mrunal Sisodia attended a meeting with the newly appointed Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for Children and Families, Vicky Ford.

In our meeting, we covered a lot of ground and shared the views of parent carers on the current state of the SEND across the country and what needs to be changed to improve outcomes and parental confidence in the system. It is encouraging that the new Minister is prioritising SEND in her first full week in the job. We passed on some key messages on behalf of parents and carers:

· We emphasised the importance of listening to the concerns of families and intervening early to stop concerns becoming problems and problems becoming crises.

· We discussed the value of coproduction and how the involvement of parent carers was key to all successful decision making. We urged the Minister to ensure that a wide range of views from parent carers is included in the ongoing SEND review.

· We shared our input into the SEND review and including the key points from our 2019 conference (http://www.nnpcf.org.uk/nnpcf-conference-gives-send-review-seven-clear-messages/)

o Listen to families and intervene early

o Make sure there is enough money and spend it well

o Align incentives for school and system leaders

o Increased accountability

o Right people, right knowledge, right skills

o Lifelong outcomes

o Coproduction

· We discussed the work and reach of parent carer forums.

We will continue to work with the Minister and her team and we are in the process of scheduling further meetings with her. We will keep you updated.