Part 3 of the Children and Families Act 2014, which came into force on 1 September 2014, has been described as the biggest reform to child welfare legislation in 30 years. It included changes to special educational needs (SEN), health and social care and affected all children and young people with special educational needs under the age of 25.
We've produced a series of factsheets and template letters which provide information for parents and carers on Part 3 of the Children and Families Act. To view these documents, follow this link.
The Key Changes
Under Part 3 of the Act, statements of special educational needs for children in schools and learning difficulty assessments for young people in further education and training will be replaced with a combined Education, Health and Care Plan (EHC plan). This plan will cover children and young people from birth to the age of 25, and will include information about health and social care needs as well as special educational needs in one single document.
This extended the age of eligibility for those with a statement of SEN and still in education from 16 to 25. EHC plans must now be prepared and maintained by the local authority and include annual reviews and re-assessments as before.
The Act puts emphasis on:
- wishes, feelings and participation in decision-making
- aspirations, goals and improving outcomes for children and young people in the transition through to adulthood
- joint planning/commissioning of services
Some of the other key changes include:
- The new scheme covers academies, independent schools and colleges. Institutions must admit pupils where named in the EHC plan.
- The First Tier (Special Educational Needs and Disability) Tribunal can consider appeals regarding the education parts of the EHC plan up to the age of 25, but there are now requirements to consider mediation before making most types of appeal.
- Personal budgets must be made available for SEN education provision along with a right to request direct payments.
- School Action and School Action Plus have been abolished and replaced with SEN support, which has extended to colleges and sixth forms.
In addition, each local authority must publish a Local Offer which sets out in one place information about the provision they expect to be available across education, health and social care for children and young people in their area who have SEN or are disabled.
Changes Since The Act Was Introduced
Since 1 September 2014 no assessments for statements of SEN or learning difficulty assessments have been offered by local authorities.
All new requests for an assessments have been considered under the new legislation and those requiring support will receive it through an EHC plan. The reformed mediation and appeals process – and the option of a personal budget for those with an EHC plan – is also now available.
Children and young people with existing statements and learning difficulty assessments will begin to transfer to the new system in accordance with the transitional arrangements put in place by each local authority. This will be set out in their Local Transition Plan.
The legal force of statements and learning difficulty assessments will not be withdrawn until all children and young people have completed the transition to EHC plans. This will be September 2016 for learning difficulty assessments and September 2018 for statements.
Where Can Families Go To Get Further Information?
A key requirement under the Act is that all local authorities must provide an information, advice and support service which should offer impartial, confidential, accessible and free advice to families.
In addition, the government announced last year that they would be funding a programme of Independent Supporters, led by the Council for Disabled Children, who will provide help to the families of children with special educational needs during the implementation of the reform.
In partnership with national deafblind charity Sense and Steve Broach, a barrister at Monckton Chambers, we were awarded a contract to design the legal training to Independent Supporters. As part of this project we have developed a series of factsheets and template letters which can be accessed by following this link.
These factsheets provide an overview of some of the important features of the reforms, such as:
- the new assessment process
- education, health and care plans
- personal budgets and direct payments
- duties on schools
- challenging decisions
They are accompanied by a series of template letters which parents and those supporting them can use when making requests for assessments or support under the new system.
If you would like any further advice on Part 3 of the Children and Families Act 2014, please contact Polly Sweeney on 0800 028 1943 or complete our enquiry form and we'll get back to you.