Devon selected to trial scheme for children with needs

Devon has welcomed an announcement that is has been selected as one of 20 pathfinder areas that will implement a radical new approach to services for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

The Government has listed Devon County Council amongst 31 local authorities and their Primary Care Trust (PCT) partners chosen to pilot its SEN green paper, published in March, which outlines its ambition to create a system that provides children and young people with individual education, health and care plans from birth to the age of 25.

Devon fought off stiff competition to pilot what has been described as a ‘radically different system’ that supports better life outcomes for young people, gives parents more confidence through greater control, and transfers power to frontline professionals and local communities.

Under Devon’s proposals, any child or young person with additional needs will have a single education, health and care plan from birth to 25 years old. This will replace the multiple referrals and assessments that families currently often experience, through services such as early years settings, schools, GPs or the social care system.

Instead, children with a range of special educational, health and care needs and their families will undertake one assessment, which, alongside their own personal budget, will give them access to, and choice of, a range of bespoke services that best meet their individual needs. These could be occupational therapy, behaviour support, respite care and special educational support and other services, all arranged through one central process.

Councillor Andrea Davis, Devon County Council’s lead member for Health, said: “It is really good news that we’ve been selected as a pathfinder for this project. We are already working alongside our partners to provide more simple, community based solutions for families, and this will enable us to build on this work.

“Families all too often face a long, slow and confusing process to getting the support they need for their child through a range of different services providers - and this can often feel like an uphill struggle.

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“A single plan will give children with even the most complex needs a simple pathway to this support, and the freedom to for their families to find what works best for them.

“It will also ensure a smoother transition from children’s to adults’ services at a time of greater stability in their lives.”

Underpinning the plan will be the commitment to a strong partnership between local services and agencies, working together to help children with disabilities and special educational needs.

Councillor Christine Channon, Cabinet Member for Schools and Skills said: “It is super that we have been selected for this pilot as one of very few local authorities in the country.”

“Our Stepping Stones programme has provided in schools, the settings and services to support children with additional needs to get the most out of their education.

“This project will further enhance opportunities for these children and their families by simplifying the process of referral and assessment, and ensuring they have the independence and choice to access the services that will benefit them most.”

The proposals will also bring about improved commissioning of services, particularly through links to health reforms, and enhance the role of voluntary and community sector organisations and parents.

Lois Markworth, independent chair of Devon’s Parent Carer Voice said: “I feel this is great step forward for families of children with additional needs. This will hopefully help to make the whole assessment process a less stressful time for families.”

The pathfinders will receive up to �150,000 per local authority per year.