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4us2 and group of Kent Charities win bid for work with disabled children

Five local Kent charities have banded together to bid for government funding to support disabled children across the county – and have won a big new contract.

Each of the charities, led by parents of disabled children and young people, are based in a different part of Kent. Together, they form the Kent Disabled Children’s Parent-Driven Consortium, or KDCPDC for short. The group bid for government funding, via the Council for Disabled Children, to provide Independent Support to families once new laws come in to effect in September that will do away with Statements of Special Educational needs and replace them with a new, more holistic assessment, known as an Education, Health and Care Plan.

Ailsa McMahon, manager of M4S, one of the charities in the group, said, “The Children and Families Act 2014 will bring lots of changes for families of disabled children. One of most important changes is that all Statements of Special Education Need, which set out the educational needs a child has and which school they will attend, will now be replaced. Families need support from independent advisers during this process, to make sure that they get the best from the new system, to answer their questions and to help ensure that disabled children and young people contribute to these new plans and make choices about their own futures. We are now recruiting the Independent Support workers so that, when the new system starts in September, families have a place to go to for advice and support.”

The KDCPDC bid in open competition for the contract. “It was a real team effort,” said Ailsa. “As a consortium, we bring local knowledge and a wide range of experience, so that we can provide an equitable service across the county that still reflects local needs. We were thrilled to win.”

The KDCPDC was formed in 2013 by the five charities when they initially bid for funds from Kent County Council to provide advice, information and support services to families of disabled children. The five members are: M4S in Maidstone, SPACE Charity in West Kent, Parents Consortium in the north of the county, 4us2 in East Kent, and Includes us 2 in the south.

“The changes will bring challenges to families, but also the opportunity to improve the way disabled children and young people are helped to plan their own futures and monitor progress. We are committed to making sure the changes taking place are in the families interests, and that anyone who needs help with the new plans gets it.” Ailsa said.

SEND Pathfinder and the Children & Families Act 2014

Information provided by the Council for Disabled Children:

Children and Families Bill receives Royal Assent
The Children and Families Bill has successfully completed its passage through both Houses of Parliament and on Thursday 13th March it received Royal Assent. There have been a number of significant changes to the Act during the final stages in the House of Lords:

• The Government brought forward a number of amendments to include young people in custody within the scope of the Act. Previously young people in custody were not covered by the SEN legislation. These amendments require local authorities to maintain Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans for young people in custody, allow EHC assessments to be requested in custody, and for
appeals to be made against local authority decisions.

• The Government tabled an amendment requiring EHC plans to include any social care services required by the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970. This amendment will mean that local authorities must identify any social care provision it needs to make as part of the EHC assessment process, specify that provision clearly in the EHC plan, and deliver that provision.

• The Government tabled a series of amendments that removed the expression ‘have regard to age’ from the Act entirely. This followed concerns that young people with SEN would be disadvantaged because local authorities had to ‘have regard to a young person’s age’ when assessing for or maintaining an EHC plan for anyone over 18.

• The Government committed to a review of the complaints and appeals processes in relation to young people who are challenging the education, health and social care elements of EHC plans. This review will include piloting a greater role for the tribunal in hearing complaints in relation to all aspects of EHC plans. The review will report back to Parliament. The Government also tabled amendments to widen the disagreement resolution and mediation arrangements to cover health and social care as well as education.

The Government consulted on the draft Regulations in November 2013. Regulations are secondary legislation which set out in more detail exactly what the law requires. Following consideration of the consultation responses, and now Royal Assent has been given to the Children and Families Act, the Government will lay the final Regulations before Parliament.

Almost all of these Regulations will be considered by Parliament using the negative resolution procedure – this means there will be no debate on the Regulations unless a Parliamentarian specifically objects to them. The only exception to this will be the Regulations on personal budgets which will be approved using the affirmative resolution procedure – this means they will have to be voted on and in all likelihood debated.

Code of Practice
The Government consulted on the draft Code of Practice in November 2013. The Government are currently working to change the Code of Practice to reflect the consultation responses and changes made to the legislation since it was first drafted. The final Code of Practice will have to be laid before Parliament and approved using the affirmative resolution procedure – this means the Code will have to be voted on and in all likelihood debated. The Government are seeking to table a revised version for Parliamentary approval as soon as they can.