Children And Families Bill Proposals ‘A Lost Opportunity’

Public Law Experts Comment On Plans To Create ‘Joined-Up’ Support System


By Rob Dixon

The government’s latest Children and Families Bill proposals are a missed opportunity to develop a joined-up system of education, health and care support for young people with special educational needs and disabilities, according to legal experts.

Irwin Mitchell’s specialist Public Law team have warned that the latest draft Bill is likely to disappoint families who were initially positive following the publication of the Green Paper into the issue and warned that the changes may lead to complications and confusion.

Among a range of concerns highlighted by the team in a briefing note prepared in conjunction with campaign group Every Disabled Child Matters was the worry that disabled children without a special education need (SEN) have been excluded from the proposed system.

Alex Rook, a public law specialist at Irwin Mitchell’s London office, outlined: “The stated purpose of the legislation is to ensure that joined up support is provided to children. Why should this joined up support only be available to children who have SEN, rather than children who may have limited educational needs but very profound health and care needs?

“Part 3 of the Bill, where this information lies, needs to be radically revised to address the detailed concerns in order to create a system worthy of the 21st century which will meet the needs of this vulnerable group of children in the round.”

Other concerns included whether the legislation and its focus on education, health and care (EHC) plans would lead to an integrated assessment process.

Alex added: “Unless a local area chooses to integrate its Children Act and NHS Act assessment and planning functions into the EHC assessment process, then children with education, health and care needs will still require separate education, health and care assessments and plans.

“Even if a local area does integrate its assessment and planning functions into the EHC assessment process, this will still leave separate processes required for the majority of children with SEN and disabled children who will not qualify for an EHC assessment or Plan.

“Overall, we consider that the proposals in the draft Bill represent a lost opportunity to establish a genuinely joined up system for disabled children and young people and those with SEN.”

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