Answers to your Questions From July 2014

We apologies for the delay in getting these back to you, the demands on the Local Authority  were huge over the summer and autum terms with the changes in legisilation, we do now have a full list of questions and answers for you to read, if you have any comments or need further clarification please get in touch with Fiona Ross –

Information for the Project Board regarding four parent forums – July 7-11 (Turnout: 44 parents) Compiled by Helen Bulaitis

 Question: 1

Concern re: ‘SEN Support’ and schools’ being accountable. If the school refuses to put support in place which parents deem necessary where do they go to try to get that decision altered? In one example, a boy with autism is getting one hour’s support a week from school; mum knows he needs more because of his anxiety; school basing their support on Key Stage 2 results – he is now in Year 9. They have told her to apply for a statutory assessment. She knows full well that he does not meet statementing criteria. How should she proceed from here? Parents would like to see something on the Local Offer website which would explain what they should do next. Lots of negative comments about schools not meeting the needs of children now.

Answer: Suzanne Murray Acting Head of the Local Inclusion Service: Avenues for complaint and redress are presented in the CoP pages 234-235 – this could be uploaded onto the Local Offer website – it is clear and comprehensive. For children young people with special educational needs, who require support through schools normally available resources -schools/academies etc. are responsible – their responsibilities are outlined in chapter 6 of the CoP. Where schools have identified special educational needs, parents, child, or young person should be involved in planning the provision in place to meet that need using the schools normally available resources (the government set threshold is currently £6000 per pupil per annum to provide SEN provision). They should also be involved in the monitoring and review of the outcomes. Where a child or young person requires support and intervention above this threshold then the school and parents may wish to request an Education, Health and Care Assessment..

All schools/academies etc. have to publish information on their websites outlining their SEN policies, procedures etc. including arrangements for handling complaints from parents of children with SEN about the provision made at school. Parents can also contact the Parent Partnership Service and the Local Inclusion Officer Service for support and advice.

Question: 2

Transition points at 16, 18+ – parents with older kids unsure about changes and how their youngsters are affected. Calls for far more information and support in this area. How is local authority intending to proceed with its requirement to manage annual reviews for young people at college?

Answer: Julie Harper Commissioning Manager Additional Needs and Disabilities: The local authority will have responsibility for ensuring that annual reviews of EHC plans for young people attending college takes place. Arrangements will be agreed with colleges regarding the organising, hosting and chairing of reviews. Some colleges already hold annual reviews on a regular basis whilst for others this is not a regular occurrence. DCC Personal Advisers will have a role in ensuring reviews are held.

Question: 3

Concern regarding post 25 support/ transition to adult care (SEN doesn’t end at 25 years old). One mother of a 27-year-old says once move age range to 25 only delays the point when a young person ‘falls off the cliff’. After her son finished full-time education there was nothing available from adult care and he was returned to the family home after having been away at college to help him live independently from his parents. She had to involve her MP and go through a long fight before she was able to secure sheltered living accommodation for him. He is now settled to everyone’s satisfaction. Is work being done to address what happens at 25 when the jurisdiction of this legislation ends? There needs to be an overlapping process with adult services at 25. What will be in place? Concerns raised about lack of adequate support. Can associated paperwork be put on website?

Answer: Julie Harper Commissioning Manager Additional Needs and Disabilities: One of the aims of the reforms is to improve the experience of transition and to ensure that services do not suddenly end because a particular date or age is reached. Transitions should take place in stages. Not everyone will have an EHC plan up to the age 25 as some young people will no longer require special educational provision and will move onto employment, adult or higher education of other adult provision before they reach 25 years.

 As a young person nears the end of formal education or training and a plan is likely therefore to be ceased within the next 12 months there should be good exit planning. The Local Offer must set out the support available for 19 to 25 year olds with special educational needs including support for transition and the Care Act 2014 sets out responsibilities for carrying out transition assessments for those turning 18.

Question: 4

Short breaks – what’s happening? Genuine worries about cuts affecting these. They are seen as an absolute lifeline giving youngsters social opportunities which are not available to them elsewhere.

Answer: Linda Dale Head of Commissioning and Partnerships: A report was discussed by the County Council’s Cabinet on 5th August. The report is public and can be found on the County Council’s website (under ‘Your Council’). Cabinet agreed to a period of consultation about the future provision of short breaks. The consultation will begin in early Autumn, after the end of the summer holiday period. It will seek people’s views about making changes to the Aiming High scheme. The proposals that will be consulted on will include reducing the amount of group activities which are commissioned; and making one-to-one support available based on an assessment of each child’s and family’s needs. No decisions have been taken yet, and no changes will be made to the scheme before 1st April 2015. People will be able to have a say about the proposals through the consultation – we will be making sure this is well publicised and there will be a range of ways for people to give their views.

Question: 5

Filling in the forms for Aiming High is difficult and the timescales to find out if support is being provided are long. What, if any, changes are planned? Information about process needed on Local Offer website.

Answer: Alex Howlett District Manager Disabled Children’s Service: A report was discussed by the County Council’s Cabinet on 5th August. The report is public and can be found on the County Council’s website (under ‘Your Council’). Cabinet agreed to a period of consultation about the future provision of short breaks. The consultation will begin in early autumn, after the end of the summer holiday period. It will seek people’s views about making changes to the Aiming High scheme. The proposals that will be consulted on will include reducing the amount of group activities which are commissioned; and making one-to-one support available based on an assessment of each child’s and family’s needs. No decisions have been taken yet, and no changes will be made to the scheme before 1st April 2015. People will be able to have a say about the proposals through the consultation – we will be making sure this is well publicised and there will be a range of ways for people to give their views.

Question: 6

The local offer – a few had not heard about it – the purpose of it, where and how it can be accessed – and all the stuff we have heard before: will there be a paper version for those without internet access, who will update it, etc. Worry that at this late stage this should be the case. Not very young person friendly – could there be a link for young people to access information separately. Could this have a ‘live chat’ facility to answer any queries? Parents have been told by head teacher that info/ support to children will be through local offer, not school. Huge concern that schools not understanding what their role is. Concerns that medical professionals are not aware of the local offer.

Answer: Linda Dale Head of Commissioning and Partnerships: Information will be shared with families, schools, early years settings, colleges, health services and others about the Derbyshire Local Offer once it goes live in September. There will not be a paper version of the Local Offer – there would be too much information to put down onto paper and it would not be possible to keep printed material up to date. There will however be some printed leaflets or cards to explain what the Local Offer is and how to access the information if you don’t have internet access.

The Local Offer website can be used by young people as well as parents. At the moment, we are focusing on getting as much of the information and content together for 1st September as possible. The site will continue to develop beyond 1st September, and we hope that young people and parents will give us feedback about what they like, and what could be improved.

At the moment, there are no plans for a ‘live chat’ facility but people will be able to ring a helpline number if they need some help to navigate the Local Offer and find the information they need. We will think about introducing ‘live chat’ in the future.

 From 1st September, schools will have a duty to publish an ‘SEN information report’ setting out how their school meets the needs of pupils with special educational needs. We are working to make sure that all schools are aware of these new responsibilities under the Code of Practice through briefing sessions for Headteachers and Special Educational Needs Co-ordinators. Support Services that work with schools (e.g. Education Psychology, Local Inclusion Officers) will also be making sure that schools are aware of their new responsibilities.

Concerns over thresholds and criteria for services and need for transparency.

Question: 7

Further SEN Training is needed for teachers in mainstream schools – to enable ‘every teacher to be the teacher of every child’. What is planned to ensure this happens? Sencos’ briefings being told SEN does not solely rest on their shoulders under new legislation, but what is being done to ensure teachers are up to speed on SEN? Code of Practice briefings required for all teachers, not just Sencos? Parents would like to see the authority being proactive on this and not reactive.

Answer: Suzanne Murray Acting Head of the Local Inclusion Service: There is a comprehensive training package being devised between the Support Service for Special Educational Needs and the Local Inclusion Officer Service around supporting SEN including:

  • SEN Information Report.
  • Every Teacher a Teacher of SEN.
  • Person Centred Planning and Review.
  • Provision Management.
  • A Graduated Response.
  • This is part of a larger training package the LA offers available to all school staff. The responsibility for ensuring staff are trained and up to date rests with the educational establishment. Schools, academies etc. will have to publsh information about the training they have had on their school website under their SEN information report 6.79 CoP.
  • Question: 8

There is a need for visual resources to help learning disabled parents understand how new legislation will affect their SEND children. Has any work been done on this and, if not, could something be put in place to help these parents? (Point raised by parent on forums’ steering group, not at forums last week).

Answer: Linda Dale – We agree that there is a need, but at the moment we are focusing on getting the Local Offer website up and running by 1st September, so that information is available for all parents about the new legislation, how it will be implemented in Derbyshire and the services which are available for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities. A helpline number will be available for anyone who has difficulty using the Local Offer website – whether that is because they have a learning disability; a visual impairment; don’t have access to the internet or are just struggling to find the information they need. In time, we will improve and develop the range of information which is available and the range of formats.

Question: 9

Parents should have the right to have a copy of the SEN Code of Practice to allow them to be sufficiently empowered. To say it is on the internet is not sufficient. Given the size of the document a physical copy is required. Can the authority supply these or lobby the DfE to supply these? Also, if ‘every teacher is a teacher of every child’ then every teacher must have access to a copy. How can parents be assured that teachers – other than Sencos – will actually look at this document? Could the authority promote the importance of teachers having this knowledge within the county’s schools? Can somebody take a lead on this and the training issue? The special educational needs and disability code of practice 0-25 June 2014 can be found at

Answer: Suzanne Murray Acting Head of the Local Inclusion Service: As above regarding training. Currently documents coming to schools and LAs do tend to be electronic it is the way of the world now – unfortunately!

 Question: 10

Seemingly inequality of decision making should a young person’s wishes at 16+ take precedence over those of the parents as Code of Practice is suggesting. It is feasible that if a young person’s view is supported over their parents they may be in a situation where, while hopefully safe, they are not in any way achieving their potential. Feeling that this is already happening with young people effectively being ‘baby-sat’ and ‘cared for’ but not being stretched at all. Will the authority make a commitment to parity of views of parents and young people?

Answer: Julie Harper Commissioning Manager Additional Needs and Disabilities: As young people develop and increasingly form their own views they should be involved more closely in decisions about their own future. The Children and Families Act 2014 gives young people over compulsory school age the right to make decisions. It is expected that parents and other family members will continue to support young people in making those decisions, or act on their behalf, provided that the young person is happy for them to do so. The local authority, schools and other services will continue to involve parents in discussions about a young person’s future. The special educational needs and disabilities code of practice requires that the final decision rests with the young person. The right of young people to make a decision is subject to their capacity to do so as set out in the Mental Capacity Act 2005, however, as far as is possible young people should be empowered to make decisions and those working with them should have high aspirations when identifying outcomes for adult life.

Question: 11

What personal budget is there if a parent decides to home educate? Parents would like far more info/guidance on personal budgets.

Vicky Pealing Project Manager: We now have in post a Personal Budgets Project Worker who will assist us to embed the offer of Personal Budgets across Education, Health and Social Care. We also have information about Personal Budgets on Derbyshire’s Local Offer Website.

Question: 12

Concern raised about confidentiality with personal budget details being part of EHC plan. One parent said she did not want her financial arrangements on show to all professionals. One-page profile (which is part of person-centred planning) would prevent this confidentiality breach. Are they going to be used? Could this be a matter of choice for parents in the same way as photos on EHC plans?

Answer: Vicky Pealing Project Manager: The section of the EHC which covers personal budgets should provide detailed information on the personal budget being provided that will be used to secure provision in the EHC plan. There is no requirement to hold the financial details of parents or young people within the EHC plan. Some information will be stored to enable us to secure payments into bank accounts and to administer the Personal Budget. However these will be stored in accordance with Derbyshire County Council’s financial regulations.

Question: 13

Concern about the timescales of the EHC process. Will they be able to complete the plans in 20 weeks? Not happening at the moment with 26 weeks process

Answer Steve Parfitt Education Officer Operational: The Local Authority put in place effective monitoring of the 26 week process so that the preparation of assessments completed on time rose sharply in 2013/14. A similar monitoring system will operate for the new EHC Needs Assessment. In addition the emphasis on using emphasis on using existing information, close liaison with partners across agencies and the appointment of the 5 EHC facilitators should ensure the majority of assessments are completed on time.

Question: 14

Who will be responsible for converting existing statements?

Answer Steve Parfitt, Educational Officer Operational: The conversion process is the responsibility of the Local Authority. Capacity from the existing workforce as well as additional resources are being directed to support with the work around the conversions. As with the Annual Review process, schools have a key role in planning and chairing the meeting, inviting the appropriate people to the meeting, requesting and circulating reports and forwarding the correct paperwork to the Local Authority. As the new processes embed we will be expecting to see a move to schools using person centred approaches to their reviews.

Question: 15

Will EHC assessment facilitators be involved in conflict resolution? Will they be impartial and independent? Parents felt this would be a requirement of the role.

Answer Steve Parfitt, Educational Officer Operational: EHC Needs facilitators will be expected to manage conflict and differences of opinions within the team around the child, including disagreements between parents, children and young people themselves. EHC Needs Facilitators will be expected to signpost families for Mediation, Dispute Resolution or support from Parent Partnership, Independent Parent Supporters and the Young Persons Advisory Service. EHC Facilitators are officers of the LA and will not be independent and impartial. Their role will be subject to review as the work progresses. At this moment it has been agreed that the EHC Facilitators will not be part of decision making within the Local Authority.

Question: 16

Concern about the proposed collaboration of health/ education and social care – how will they ensure health with engage due to their medical commitments, etc? Could a charter/contract be considered to allay parents’ fears? Parents want access to medical professionals and diagnoses earlier. Concerns that there is a lack of follow up info/support from health once a diagnosis has been made.

Answer: Kate Taylor Children’s Commissioning Manager Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG’s): CCGs have for this year 2014/15 and for 2015-16 stated the requirement of health providers in their role in the pathway/process for the EHC plans and for providers to fulfil the requirements defined in the code of practise. CCG’s will continue to work with their health provider organisations and our partners in education and local authorities of the processes and pathways for EHC plans. Health Commissioners have programmes of work that are addressing some of the issues of access to specialist health services and interventions. Patient and parent feedback is essential and we can test new pathways using these examples as a means of checking have we got it right?

Question: 17

Decision-making panels – some parents would like parents and child/young person themselves to attend to hear discussion about their own case, rather than a parent sitting on these in a representative role. Is this possible?

Answer Steve Parfitt, Educational Officer Operational: The Local Authority is actively seeking to have clear and transparent decision making processes. We are working to ensure that parents and young people have access to all the information presented to any panel on their behalf and that parents and young people are given direct feedback from a member of the panel where they have been discussed, the rationale for the decisions made.

 Question: 18

Can we please have annual review paperwork on website alongside EHC needs assessment paperwork in the spirit of transparency?

Vicky Pealing Project Manager: Yes it is on now.

 Question: 19

On the new Impact Assessment, will this be used on all children with SEN or just during the EHC needs assessment process? Parents thought if it proves a useful tool then it should be applied to all children under the SEN umbrella.

Vicky Pealing Project Manager: We hope that this will be a useful tool which may help decisions about threshold for support at different levels including the graduated response to SEN. If practitioners and families find it a useful tool then we would have no objection to it being used in different situations.

Question: 20

While an EHC needs assessment is taking place, and until a decision is reached, will the child be supported appropriately?

Answer: Suzanne Murray Acting Head of the Local Inclusion Service: AN EHC assessment will only be agreed where there is a level of support in place through the educational settings normally available resources and a graduated response has been enacted. The support would be expected to continue during the process as it is the settings responsibility to put the appropriate provision in place through their normally available resources, and regardless as to the decision.

Question: 21

Have schools been given an IT deadline to get their SEN Information Report on their websites? If not, could this be put in place?

Answer: Suzanne Murray Acting Head of the Local Inclusion Service: It is schools and academies responsibilities to get their SEN Information report on their websites, we cannot dictate a time scale, nor have I seen a time scale from the DfE but we will be offering training, advice and guidance. Schools should already have most if not all of the information; it should be a matter of drawing this together in one place. it would be expected for schools to have begun the process of developing their SEN Information report and to have some information available as soon as is possible such as the SEN Policy, it would also be expected that schools would have a clear timed plan to develop the report further to ensure all the points in the Code of Practice are covered.

Question: 22

School budgets: Huge concern about the fact that if one school advertises that they are good at supporting children with a given condition other schools in the area will simply say, you would be better off sending your child there. If the nature of children’s SEN falls within SEN Support (and therefore does not attract extra funding) then a school could find itself with an increasingly stretched budget to meet the needs of the increased number of SEN children that have been attracted to it. Therefore, there is absolutely little incentive for schools to advertise positively what they offer in terms of SEN – despite the legislation – because they may find themselves under the cosh financially. Could a formula be worked out whereby the authority would step in to support schools which are bearing the brunt within the SEN Support category? This could simply be based on a head count, or might need to be a bit more sophisticated than that. Could someone explain clearly how a school that does attract more SEN pupils is going to be financially supported?

Answer: Chris Allcock Head of Finance Children and Younger Adults Department: There is a small SEN contingency, £300k, which is there to support claims from schools if their SEN cost burden is unreasonable. An example of this might be where a school, because of a change in its pupil profile, finds itself having to fund a disproportionate number of SEN children and therefore incurring multiple £6k support costs. In these cases the school can make application to the LA and we will make a judgement on the claim based on the school’s finances and the SEN issues.

Question: 23

Concern over educational psychologists refusing to do assessments. Again, in spirit of transparency, could criteria for assessments be put on website?

Answer: Deborah Page Principal Education Psychologist Head of Service: Educational Psychologists provide ‘core’ work to schools – without the school needing to pay for this – for the children who are currently experiencing severe and complex difficulties in school, and who have EHC plans, or statements, or are undergoing EHC needs assessments or are at the highest levels of need leading up to a referral for EHC plans / at high risk of permanent exclusion, providing schools have already followed a robust graduated response. Schools are asked to prioritise children for this work at twice-yearly planning meetings. The number of assessments, consultations etc which EPs carry out is limited in part by the size of the Service. In addition, should schools require assessment or intervention at SEN Support level, or longer term interventions for children with Plans, schools can purchase this from the Educational Psychology Service.

Question: 24

Concerns about there being limited support for SEN when the difficulties are mainly at home and that certain areas are isolated from services, eg Shirebrook.

Answer: Linda Dale Head of Commissioning and Partnerships: A range of services provide activities for young people and support for families; sometimes the issue may be not knowing what is available, rather than the support not being there. The Local Offer will help to highlight services people may not have been aware of, as well as any local gaps in services. There will be an opportunity for young people and families to give specific feedback about the services where they live. The Council will have to consider and respond to this feedback.