Thoughts on the Special Educational Needs & Disability Green paper

I (Laura) recently attended parent consultation meetings run by NBCS/RNIB on the Government’s reform proposals in the Special Educational Needs & Disability (SEND) Green paper.

It leaves a lot to be desired!! I have to stress that this is not definitely going to become law, and much of the conclusions drawn from it are based on supposition on the part of concerned groups rather than hard fact. Let’s just hope the government does one of it’s now famous ‘u-turns’ on this subject!!

RNIB/NBCS wrote to lots of parents inviting us to a consultation afternoon regarding the SEND Green Paper. One of the big concerns relating to visually impaired (VI) children is that under the paper’s proposals, School Action and School Action Plus will be abolished. Only children who currently have statements will be assessed for help under a whole new plan which will encompass health, education, and social welfare of disabled children. There is also a clause which states that all school’s staff should have the expertise to deal with any disability, which puts qualified teachers of the visually impaired (QTVI) at risk, and an unrealistic burden on school staff to be able to expertly teach children with all disabilities. The RNIB feel this is not well thought out. After all, QTVIs have a 2 year course on top of their teacher training just in teaching VI children. Are the Government suggesting that every teacher becomes proficient in Braille and British Sign Language?

Certain areas of the country – like Leeds and Sheffield –do not statement partially sighted and blind children unless they have additional disabilities. This would leave most children with aniridia liable to fall through the cracks in the new system. Only those with statements will get the new ‘personal budgets’ – the rest will have to rely on adaptation made by the school, with no extra money.

Parents are also going to be given more ‘power’ through the new personal budgets. The way it would work, is that each child would be allocated a budget every year. Parents would be responsible for spending it any way they see fit. It would involve not only hours and hours of work, (and possibly a degree in accountancy!), but parents would have to find services themselves. For example, currently, children with disabilities not attending their local school, get free taxis to school. Under the new system, there is a suggestion that parents might have to:

  • ring round taxi companies to find the cheapest deal
  • pay the bills themselves
  • and keep receipts, to claim the money back.

Extend this to every single aspect of your child’s care, and parents would have a practically full time job just making arrangements and doing the paperwork. Also, if your budget runs out, (if, for example, your child needs an expensive piece of equipment such as CCTV),  and there is no money left to pay your child’s teaching assistant? Parents were very concerned that they would have to make almost impossible choices like this.

The one group of young people likely to benefit from the new proposals are the 16-25 age group, who are hardly catered for at all under current arrangements. The paper made proposals that go right through from birth to 25, with budgeting for tertiary education, etc.

Basically, although the Green Paper itself is extremely vague, it seemed to bring up far more worries than it solved. RNIB/NBCS wanted to form an official response to the Green Paper. Parents had a lot to say, as you can imagine!! Speaking to parents of children with other disabilities (not as part of this meeting, but personal acquaintances from elsewhere) showed that other charities are very unhappy too. The RNID and a charity for autistic children have their concerns, and may well be sending formal responses too.

The RNIB have published their draf their response to the paper. It highlights a lot of the worries expressed by parents/teachers at the meeting. Also at the link above you can use their template as the basis for submitting your own response to the SEND Green paper – the deadline in 30 June 2011.

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