Councils in link for special needs pilot

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MAJOR innovations in the way services are provided for children with special needs and disabilities are to be put to the test by a group of councils across the South East.

Following a successful bid led by East Sussex County Council, a partnership of councils called the South East 7 (SE7) will trial the way disabled young people, those with learning difficulties and other special educational needs are assessed and provided with support.

The Government unveiled its proposals for change in a Green Paper on special educational needs and disabilities earlier this year.

It announced that the SE7 and its partners in the health service and the voluntary sector, will be asked to pilot those changes.

The SE7 is a collaboration of councils involving East Sussex County Council, Brighton and Hove City Council, Kent County Council, Hampshire County Council, Medway Council, West Sussex County Council and Surrey County Council.

The area serves 1.3 million children including more than 24,000 with special educational needs.

The trial was welcomed by the Leader of East Sussex County Council, Cllr Peter Jones, and the Lead Member for Children’s and Adults’ Services, Cllr David Elkin. Cllr Elkin said: “These will be significant changes to the way we support young people with special needs and disabilities and their families.

“It will be about redesigning the system to put the child and their families at the centre of the process, giving them more choice and control, and looking at all of a child’s needs.

“The changes will lead to better outcomes for children in East Sussex and the rest of the country and many of them are changes local authorities have long argued for.

“I am delighted that we will get the chance to play a key role in shaping and influencing the reforms and the new policy.”

The reforms are aimed at making sure the child and their families are fully involved.

They will lead to simpler assessment processes which will look at all of a child’s needs including their learning needs, their health needs and their care needs.

In many cases this will lead to single support plan.

New processes will be trialled aiming to ensure earlier identification of a child’s needs, and for some there will be trials of personal budgets, giving families more control over the services.

Families will also be involved in reviewing what support is on offer for disabled children and how to make best use of the services available.