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  • Equal Lives

    From April 2013 Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People (NCODP) and all of its services will be known as Equal Lives. They would like to invite you to celebrate with them and hear about their plans for the future!

    Tuesday 2nd April, 10-4 at The Forum in Norwich, with the official launch downstairs in the Curve 11-12.30

    There will also be local launch events, each running 3-6 with a presentation at 3.30:

    Tuesday 9th April, King's Lynn, West Norfolk Deaf Association
    Monday 15th April, Great Yarmouth at the Priory
    Tuesday 23rd April, Cromer at Cromer Parish Hall
    Monday 29th April, Dereham at the Gallery (memorial halls)

    These invites are to find out more about Equal Lives and to have your say on the issues facing disabled people and how to get involved. To book a place call 01508 491210 or online https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Launcheventbookings 

  • The Children and Families Bill - House of Commons Second Reading

    The Children and Families Bill - House of Commons Second Reading

    Monday 25 February 2013

    A briefing from the Every Disabled Child Matters campaign and the Special Educational Consortium


    About EDCM and SEC

    Our membership includes over 40 professional, voluntary sector and provider organisations and we have over 34,000 individual supporters. The views of children, young people and their families have closely informed our members’ positions on the Children and Families Bill. This briefing represents the agreed position of the members of the Every Disabled Child Matters campaign and the Special Educational Consortium.


    Overview of the SEN and disability reforms

    In 2011, the SEN and disability sector broadly welcomed the ambitions of the Green Paper, Support and Aspiration. The proposals in the Green Paper were to create a more coherent, joined up approach to meeting the needs of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). The SEND clauses of the Children and Families Bill (clauses 19-72) are a key part of these reforms.

    The main points in the Children and Families Bill which the sector welcomes are:

    • Stronger duties on health, social care and education to review and commission services jointly and to provide greater clarity for parents and young people about what is available (clauses 25-30);
    • The potential for support through a new Education, Health and Care plan to continue until the age of 25. This includes the extension of support into further education, apprenticeships and potentially to young people who are not in education, employment or training (clauses 33-45);
    • The emphasis on closely involving children, young people and their families in all the decisions that affect them (clause19)
    • The application of the new legal framework directly to academies and free schools (clause 72).

    Overall, however, we do not feel that the Children and Families Bill delivers on the original objectives of the Green Paper. We feel the Bill is overly focused on education related services and does not provide an adequate framework to draw health and social care services into the system of support for children with SEN. Unless this is addressed, the Bill will simply replicate and reinforce the fragmentation in the current system. These issues are discussed in greater detail below.

    This is a time of deepening cuts to frontline services. EDCM and SEC seek re-assurance from the Government that they recognise the impact of local cuts, particularly as they affect SEN and disability services. Local authorities will need considerable support and resources to ensure these reforms can make a practical difference at a local level.


    Education, Health and Care Plans – access to integrated services

    Clauses 36-45 of the Children and Families Bill replace statements of special educational needs with Education, Health and Care plans. The Bill as currently drafted does not deliver the joined up plans that the Green Paper promised. Like statements, EHC plans are primarily based in education:

    • Only children and young people with significant educational needs will be able to get the new plan. Disabled children with health and social care needs, without significant educational needs, will not be eligible.
    • There is no clarity about how social care or health assessments will be part of the new assessments meaning families may still face parallel processes. This is precisely the challenge that the reforms are intended to overcome.
    • There are no new legal duties on health or social care to deliver the services set out in EHC plans. There is no single point of appeal; families will have to seek redress from multiple agencies.
    EDCM and SEC cannot see how EHC plans significantly improve on statements of SEN, particularly given the lack of new legal duties on health and social care. General joint planning and commissioning duties do not go far enough. We hope the Minister will be able to provide reassurances that he is willing to consider how these clauses could be strengthened to ensure that this happens.

    Education, Health and Care Plans – protecting current entitlements

    In moving from statements to EHC plans, the Government has committed to protecting all current entitlements. Following pre-legislative scrutiny, we recognise that the Bill has been improved to re-instate some of the entitlements, particularly rights for parents and young people to request a statutory assessment. However, there are some outstanding questions on which we hope the Minster will provide re-assurance.

    EDCM and SEC hope the Minster can provide reassurances that the Bill and regulations will include:a) clear timescales for local authorities to respond to requests for an assessment; andb) clear information on how EHC assessments should be conducted    and how EHC plans should be set out. 







    Education, Health and Care Plans – post-16

    The key difference between Education, Health and Care plans and statements of SEN is that the new plans will extend beyond school. This means the Bill will significantly improve the rights of young people to support in college. Following pre-legislative scrutiny, the Government has also extended entitlements to apprenticeships and, in specific circumstances, to young people who are not in education, employment or training. This is a major improvement and is welcomed by EDCM and SEC.

    EDCM and SEC have been urging the Government to go a step further and support all young people with an EHC plan up to the age of 25, including those in supported employment. We are keen to hear from the Government whether they have considered this option and if there are any barriers to its implementation.

    Young people will cease to be eligible for EHC plans if they go to university. There are many benefits of EHC plans continuing into university, including reducing the need for a further re-assessment and ensuring co-ordinated support continues for young people who may be moving away from home. 

    EDCM and SEC believe that young people at university should also be eligible for an EHC plan. We are keen to hear from the Government why they have decided to leave universities out of the new framework and whether they will re-consider this position.


    Joining up services

    Clauses 25-29 require local services to cooperate, to jointly review services, and to put in place arrangements for joint commissioning. This has the potential to improve the way services for children and young people with SEND are commissioned. While we welcome the Government’s intention that services work better together we have some specific concerns which we hope the Government will address:

    • These clauses only require services to put in place joint arrangements for children with special educational needs. This means disabled children who do not have SEN will not be included in the joint planning and commissioning. We believe this is a major and unnecessary omission.  
    • These clauses provide insufficient clarity for commissioners with regards to the social care and health services that should be jointly commissioned. The Government should clarify whether these clauses cover all health provision and social care provision that children with SEN receive, or only that which arises from special educational needs.
    • There is a lack of clarity about how these new commissioning arrangements will be linked to other local arrangements. We believe there need to be clear links between Children’s Trust arrangements, Health and Wellbeing Board duties and the joint commissioning arrangements set out in the Bill.
    EDCM and SEC believe that limiting joint commissioning arrangements to education related services is a missed opportunity. Services to meet the health and care needs of children should be included in these clauses.





    The Local offer

    Clause 30 requires local authorities to produce information on the education, health and care  services ‘it expects’ to be available locally – this will be known as the ‘local offer’. The intention is to give parents and young people clear information about local services and how they can access them.

    EDCM and SEC welcome greatly the clarity about what services are available. This will speed up access to those services and increase confidence in the system. However, in order to be effective, we believe the clause needs to strengthened in two ways:

    • Currently a local authority will only have to set out the provision ‘it expects’ to be available in their local offer. This wording is not strong enough to provide redress for parents or young people if those services are simply not there. We believe that there needs to be a legal duty to provide what is set out in the local offer. This will allow parents and young people and young people to challenge local authorities if the local offer is not delivered.
    • To address the current variation in support, EDCM and SEC believe a national framework should inform the development of each local offer.
    EDCM and SEC believe that that the Government needs to include a ‘duty to provide’ and a national framework to create much needed accountability for and consistency in local provision.  

    The Code of Practice – replacing School Action and School Action Plus

    EDCM and SEC recognise that, following pre-legislative scrutiny, the Government has agreed that the SEND Code of Practice should be laid before Parliament. The Government is proposing that the negative resolution procedure is used. 

    We welcome the Government’s agreement that the Code of Practice should be laid before Parliament. However, we believe that Parliament will want the opportunity to discuss the new SEND Code of Practice under the affirmative resolution procedure.  

    Parents place great value in the Code of Practice and we believe any change must be built on clear evidence that it will improve outcomes for children and young people. The biggest proposed change is that School Action and School Action Plus will be replaced by a single SEN stage. Our members have yet see how the removal of the distinction between School Action and School Action Plus and the creation of a single school based category of SEN will help children and young people.

    We are seeking re-assurances that the Government has a clear and positive view as to how all those children currently supported through School Action and School Action Plus will be supported in future.  

    For more information please contact

    Robert Holland, Vice-Chair of the Special Educational Consortium and Senior Parliamentary Officer at Mencap

    rob.holland@mencap.org.uk, 0207 696  6954

    Laura Courtney, Campaign Manager, Every Disabled Child Matters Laura@edcm.org.uk, 020 7843 6448

    Matthew Dodd, Policy Officer, Special Educational Consortium

    mdodd@ncb.org.uk, 020 7843 9709 

  • Workshop Slides: Preparing for Adulthood

    At the Family Voice Norfolk conference, Saturday 16th March 2013, Nicola Gitsham, Programme Manager for Preparing for Adulthood, gave a very well attended workshop. We are so pleased that she was able to send over the slides for this workshop so if you were not able to attend or needed more time to take notes of all the information she gave you can now download and read at your leisure.


  • 2013 Conference

    On Saturday, Family Voice Norfolk held their third annual conference for families of children with additional needs and disabilities. The day was opened with an inspirational talk from Helen Jackson, NHS Norfolk Commissioning Manager for Children, who outlined, from her own perspective, the impact that working in partnership with parents from Family Voice has had on local services. Helen Wheatley, Assistant Director of the Council for Disabled Children, shared an update about the reforms to special educational needs provision that are contained within the new children and families bill. Throughout the day there were numerous workshops offering a chance to learn more about a specific subject from a range of different facilitators, covering the full range of education, health and care services. A ‘Speed Dating’ event offered the chance to speak to professionals on a one to one basis about personal issues in detail. In the main hall of the John Innes Conference Centre, there were many stands from lots of organisations giving general advice and information to families. Family Voice also organised activities for children, ran by Asperger East Anglia, children had to opportunity to take part in lots of fun activities. This enabled parents to get the most information and support that they could out of the day. A lot of positive feedback has been collected this year’s conference increased upon last year’s turnout and organisers hope to replicate this in 2014. 

  • Norfolk STEPS/Positive Handling Training Programme

    For parents of children aged 4-18 years who have special and additional needs and whose behaviours are physically challenging.

    This course is FREE and designed to help parents, or other significant family members and carers who have a caring role, better understand and manage their child's behaviours.

    The course aims to provide some understanding about behaviours that challenge, de-escalation skills and also some basic physical intervention techniques. Each person will have a personal evaluation at the end of the course where further issues can be explored on an individual basis. 

    The course is held over two half day sessions from 10am-1pm on consecutive Mondays, with a further informal follow up session 4-6 weeks later on a Tuesday from 10am-12pm.

    This course is being held on dates in April, May, June and July. All sessions will take place at The base, Cecil Road, Norwich NR1 2TJ. To book a place please contact The base on 01603 463121 or email thebasenorwich@gmail.com 


  • Conference Programme

    After much hard work from the Family Voice team we now have the programme (subject to a few final tweaks) for our conference on 16th March 2013. 

    09.30        Coffee and Registration

    10.00         Introduction by Helen Jackson, NHS Commissioning Manager for Children

    10.15         Helen Wheatley, Assistant Director of the Council for Disabled Children 

    11.00         Karen Wooddissee, Vice Chair, Family Voice Norfolk

    11.30         Workshop One

    12.00         Lunch 

    12.15        Speed Dating starts

    1.15          Workshop Two 

    2.00          Workshop Three

    2.45          Networking and Feedback

    3.00          Close

    Full details of the workshops, biographies of the speed daters and other useful information are available by emailing the admin office or by downloading the PDF below. 

  • ASD Pathway

    NHS Norfolk have been working with local stakeholders including Family Voice to develop a Pathway for Recognition, Referral and Assessment of possible Autism in Children and Young People means the right people, doing the right things, in the right order at the right time to achieve the right outcomes for the child or young person.

    This has been quite a long term project and our Reps have made considerable effort to have parents experiences used to inform the pathway, therefore we would welcome feedback from you. If you have concerns about your child and get involved in a process of getting an assessment/diagnosis, please share your experiences with us - we want to know it is working!

  • HOSC Children's Wheelchairs Norfolk

    Norfolk County Council HOSC Wheelchair Services review – Family Voice consultation on Children’s Wheelchair Services (Dec 2012)

    We were delighted to be part of this project and give thanks to everyone who participated. 

Additional information