HOW TO FIND YOUR 5 ESSENTIAL SEND LINKS IN EACH LOCAL BOROUGH
As the former management team running the local parent carer forum in Harrow, we were often approached by parents from other boroughs looking for information on SEND. We put together this useful guide to support all families in any borough of London to discover 5 essential links to help them get started. Please note, each local borough is structured and operates in very different ways but these are essential basic provision that must be available by law. You can find out more about what the law says should be available; please see further information below to download the ‘SEND Code of Practice’ (2015).
The Children and Family Act 2014 requires all local boroughs to have some basic sources of information, support and provision for families with a child/young person or adult with special educational needs and disability (SEND). Provision in each local area varies from borough to borough but generally speaking, below are a summary of what is required by law to be made available. Most of these are also referred to as ‘statutory services’, which means it is a legal requirement and each local area receives public funds have these services in place.
The 5 Essential Links are also to be found in various sections of your own borough’s SEND Local Offer website
SEND Local Offer- What is it?
All local authorities must publish a ‘Local Offer’, setting out in one place information about 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, including those who do not have Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans.
Key Local Departments
- There is a sub section of education departments within all local authorities that deal specifically with provision for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities. Its often referred to as the SEN Assessment and Review Service (the name may vary in each local authority). They are responsible for coordinating, collating information for each pupils’ EHCPs (Educational Health & Social Care Plans) and ensuring that children and young people with special educational needs get the most out of their education and maximise their achievements from 0-25 years old or as long as they are still in an educational setting.
- Local health departments within each local borough are often made up of a group of providers often known as ‘Health Partners’. They are often separate from the responsibility or function of the the local authorities although some local authorities (councils) commission some services form their Health Partners. The range of providers that make up local Health Partners include, the Care Commissioning Groups, (CCGs) made up representatives of leaders of local GPs surgeries), NHS Trusts (that have responisibility of the health of residents in that area), NHS England, (responisbile for public health of all residents). The range of individual services offered under health include specialist ‘speech and language’ (SALT/SLT), ‘occupational therapy’ (OT) physiotherapy services. Each area is also required to have a Designated Medical/Clinical Officer (DMO/DCO) in post. They mustt ensure they take part in meetings with local Health partners (CCGs) and support them to fulfils their statutory responsibilities for children and young people with SEN and disabilities, primarily by providing a point of contact for local partners, when notifying parents and local authorities about children and young people they believe have, or may have, SEN or a disability
- Care (Social Care)
- There is also a sub section of social care/service departments within all local authorities that deal specifically with provision for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities. Its often referred to as the Children and Young People/Adults Disabilities Service (the name may vary in each local authority). They are responsible for coordinating, collating information for each pupils’ ‘Social Care Assessment/Plan’ or ‘Care Package’ (if they have one) and ensuring that children and young people with special educational needs get the most out of local services including short breaks and/or respite provision. They are also responsible for the general well-being of pupils and their families and often have a ‘Safeguarding Team’ to ensure the health and safety of children/young people known to them. Some of these departments have either merge with adult social services or work closely in tandem with them. The government has also required local Health and Social Care departments to merge to ensure closer partnership working and planning of service provision (‘joint commissioning’).
Parent Carer Forums
Parent Carer Forums are a network of parent-led groups and member organisations in each local borough or county across the UK, funded by the Department of Education (DfE) to represent the voices of local families with children/young people/adults with SEND and work with decision makers to improve SEND services. They are part of the National Network of Parent Carer Forums (NNPCF) and supported by the national disability charity Contact. The criteria of the forums are that they must represent all families with SEND children and any form of special needs (pan-disability). They are an important source of information and opportunity for parents/carers to share their experiences (engagement) and take part in activities (consultations, participation and co-production) to help improve local services. Some of these activities include sitting on strategy boards in various departments to discuss policy and strategic planning of local SEND services. The DfE funding for the forums allows them to use a range of different ways to reach out to local families (drop-ins, coffee mornings, consultations, social events etc) and collate information about their experiences. These forums have different names and often run independently by local parent carers themselves and some are supported by key professionals. Some have become charities or legal organisations (e.g. social enterprise/community interest company (CIC)) in their own right and provide other services for their membership and the local community.
SEND IAS Service
Special Educational Needs Disability Information Advice Service (SEND IAS) is a statutory service which must be available in each local area to support families with a range of SEND information. Families with a pupil with an EHCp can get legal, independent and impartial advice to apply for or challenge provision set out in their EHCP. They are important source of information and support for families who need help with meetings with professionals. Each SEND IAS Service is independent from the local authority, their practictioners are legally trained on SEND matters (e.g. by IPSEA) and some providers are also local charities or organisations who already support families with SEND children. You will also find their information in the local providers list under ‘advice and support organisations’ on your borough’s SEND Local Offer website.
Local Organisations and Charities
The local advice and support section of each local borough has a range of specialist providers (charities, social enterprises, businesses) for families with children with SEND with a range of services including short breaks, respite, day centres, information, support, counselling etc. The services are providing either directly to families or by professional referrals from other agencies or departments.
Download the ‘SEND Code of Practice 2015‘, to find out what provision should be available locally, how to access it and which departments are responsible providing it.