New research carried out by eight leading disability charities that make up the SEND Consortium, highlights the need to significantly improve parent carers’ understanding, use and access to personal budgets, if the government’s increased focus on ‘personalisation’ is to be successful.
The SEND Consortium carried out a survey of 850 parent carers of children and young people with special education needs or disabilities (SEND) and found that under the current system it’s already the case that:
- only 1 in 10 people use a Personal Budget and 1 in 20 say they use Direct Payments
- for those who said they didn’t use a Personal Budget, nearly 60% said it was because they didn’t know about them. Similarly, nearly 40% of people who said they didn’t use direct payments, reported it was because they didn’t know about them
- almost half rated the help they receive as poor
- almost three quarters of respondents wanted more control over the help they receive
Importantly, the way people access education, health and social services is changing. The draft Children and Families Bill sets out government plans to give all families of children and young people with SEND and an Education, Health and Care Plan, the option for accessing a personal budget.
To give parent carers the chance to make the most of Personal Budgets, the SEND Consortium is developing an innovative ‘brokerage’ service in England – SENDirect. This will reduce the current confusion and misunderstanding amongst parent carers about personal budgets and help them to manage them more effectively in the future. At the same time SENDirect will also help local providers promote their services and understand more about the needs of children and young people with SEND in their area.
Jolanta Lasota from the SEND Consortium says: “Using personal budgets and direct payments should give families greater choice about and control over the services their children access. Worryingly though, our survey highlights that under the current system many parent carers remain unaware that this facility exists or simply don’t understand them. At the same time gaps in the market are creating barriers to families using personal budgets in the ways they would like. Unless something is put in place that changes this, the Government’s emphasis on personalisation will be meaningless.
“That’s why we are developing SENDirect. As well as supporting families to be more aware of what services are available for their child it will provide the tools and information to support them to have more control over their personal budgets. At the same time, SENDirect will support providers and commissioners fill any gaps in the services they provide.”
The SENDirect project is funded by the Department of Health and the Department for Education. The SEND Consortium plan to pilot SENDirect with nine local authorities later this year, with a planned launch in March 2015.
Jolanta Lasota continues: “Increasing parent carer knowledge, understanding and confidence in personalisation and increasing the choice of quality services available will put children and young people with SEND and their families at the heart of the process – helping them receive the right services at the right time and ultimately decreasing the number of emergency interventions.”
For further information and updates about the SENDirect project please visit www.sen-direct.org.uk