The Children and Families Act 2014 (Part 3) ensures that high quality support is received by children with special educational needs or disability (SEND) and their families. The Act improved upon the Children Act 1989 by providing families with more control over the welfare of their own children. We will talk about the Children Act 1989 in a future legal blog post.
How Is 'Special Educational Needs' Defined Under the Act?
A child has special educational needs 'if he or she has a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for him or her'
A child under compulsory school age has a learning difficulty or disability 'if he or she is likely to be within subsection (2) when of compulsory school age (or would be likely, if no special educational provision were made)'.
Section 20, subsection (2) states that a learning difficulty or disability is present if a child:
(a) has a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age, or
(b) has a disability which prevents or hinders him or her from making use of facilities of a kind generally provided for others of the same age in mainstream schools or mainstream post-16 institutions.
Subsection (4) is clear that a learning difficulty or disability is not solely because a child’s first language is not English.
What Is 'Special Educational Provision'?
Section 21, subsection (1) defines special educational provision, health care provision and social care provision as 'provision that is additional to or different from that which would normally be provided for children or young people of the same age in a mainstream education setting'.
Section 21, subsections (3), (4) and (5) define health care provision and social care provision:
- ‘Health care provision’ means the provision of health care services as part of the comprehensive health service in England continued under section 1(1) of the National Health Service Act 2006.
- ‘Social care provision’ means the provision made by a local authority in the exercise of its social services functions.
- Health care provision or social care provision that educates or trains a child or young person is to be treated as special educational provision (instead of health care provision or social care provision).
What changes occurred as a result of the Act?
- Services for children with SEND are now run jointly between education, health care, social care services and the local authority
- Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) support people from 0-25 years old and their families
- Parents can request a personal budget from the local authority to support their child’s education, health and social care needs
- Parents and children are involved in decisions relating to their own lives. The local authority must provide them with the information they need to participate in decisions, as well as access to impartial advice and mediation services
- This local authority is required to publish a 'local offer' The local offer ensures that families of children with SEND are clearly informed about all the services and provisions that are available to them locally
In our next legal blog post we will discuss the local authority’s responsibilities under the Children and Families Act 2014, particularly what children and families can expect from the ‘local offer’.