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Concerns with Children and Families Bill

Young people with special educational needs will not be adequately catered for in a new Government bill, a Shropshire solicitor and expert in education law has warned.

Bryony Walker, of Mortimers Solicitors, said the Children and Families Bill, as it stands now, would leave children in danger of not having their needs identified and open to less support than they currently receive.

Mrs Walker, who is based in the Bridgnorth office of Mortimers, said that the Bill – which is currently a working document and not the final version - will need significant refinement for it to clarify the position of those with special educational needs and their families.

The Bill is being introduced to reform legislation on various areas including adoption and social care, children and young people with special educational needs and aspects of the family justice system.

“The description of special needs should contain more detail about the severity of the child’s difficulties and how they impact on his or her learning,” said Mrs Walker.

“The proposed support plan does not spell out sufficiently clearly who will do what, how often or how long support sessions will last.

“Also, there is no clear distinction between special educational provision and non-educational provision, meaning that it is unclear who would be legally responsible for providing speech and language therapy.

“Furthermore, the time scales and format of the new assessment are not clear-cut.

“Local authorities can omit certain aspects of the assessment if they do not think a child has health or social care needs and as a result there is a risk that many children might not have all their needs identified.”

Mrs Walker added that as the current plan does not contain a clear section on special educational provision, it is possible that parents will not be able to appeal against the level of therapies or provision required.

She said that if parents request a reassessment, the local authority will not be obliged to carry out a full assessment and parents would not be able to appeal to the tribunal to the same extent as before.

30-08-2013