I would like to introduce you to one of the exceptional speakers at the SEN conference, Towards a Positive Future. She is Tania Tirraoro, a journalist and author who runs the website Special Needs Jungle and is a mother of two sons with autism.

She will talk about how parents-carer forums, such as Family Voice Surrey, of which she is a member, are helping to shape SEN services with the SEN Green paper pathfinders which Surrey will be trialing, among other areas, for the proposed Education Health and Care Plan.

Tania says: “The whole system at the moment is adversarial and there is much distrust on both sides, so to make the new process succeed there needs to be a major cultural shift towards working together for the benefit of the child. At the moment LEAs are (rightly or wrongly) seen as penny-pinching, budget-not-child focused parent-haters who are determined to give as little as they can get away with. LEA staff, meanwhile see some parents as just trying to bag a statement to get their children into the best schools that cost the council hundreds of thousands of pounds a year when (the LEA feels) local provision would do just as well. There are many parents left vastly out-of-pocket by legal fees as they pursue the most appropriate option for their child.

“Personally, I can’t understand why any parent would head into the stressful, potentially expensive jungle of statementing unless their child has significant needs that are not being met within current school resources – I mean, why would you put yourself through that? Every parent I have encountered who is seeking a statement has experienced their child going through years of difficulties, under-achievement and unhappiness before they become convinced that this is the only route. I’m sure there are exceptions, but they must be just that - exceptions.”

The conference is being held on 16 June in Newbury, Berkshire, with special guest speaker Jane Asher, president of the National Autistic Society. Organiser Janet O’Keefe, a speech and language therapist and SEN expert witness, of Wordswell, says Tania will highlight how the Green Paper for SEN reforms is progressing. Janet says:

“We question whether currently parents see local authorities as having a role as champions for vulnerable children and families. In order for that to be achieved there needs to be a re-building of trust and confidence. It is essential that local authorities apply the SEN legal framework in a consistent manner in order that no postcode lottery exists between geographical areas in the delivery of provision.

“Tania has been informed that there will be NO White Paper published.  Instead the UK Government will soon issue a new document called “The Way Forward”.  This will set out that:

  • There will be a new SEN Code of Practice by the academic year 2013/4.
  • The Education Health and Care Plan will replace the Statement of SEN by 2014.
  • There are no plans to remove parents’ right to appeal.
  • The EHCP will still have statutory protection.
  • Occupational Therapy and Speech and Language Therapy will continue to be funded by education if an educational need.
  • Money allocated per child will be up to £10,000 per child based on a needs-based formula and schools can commission services directly from this budget.
  • Personalised budgets will come in in September 2013 controlled by parents.
  • Screening at 2 to 2.5 years is to be reintroduced with the training of an additional 10,000 health visitors.

Full details about the conference can be viewed here.