Children and Families Minister Edward Timpson MP gave the keynote speech at the Pears Ambitious about Autism Annual Lecture 2013 on Monday 29 April. Hosted by Ambitious about Autism, the national charity for children and young people with autism, the event took place at Portcullis House, Westminster.
The Minister assured the audience that Statements of Special Educational Needs will retain their current legal status until local authorities are able to replace them with the proposed Education, Health and Care Plans. He also answered questions from young people with autism and their parents and carers about their concerns. The Minister’s speech came as the Children and Families Bill – which marks a significant change to special education needs policy – goes through Parliament.
Earlier this month Ambitious about Autism published its new report Our Lives in Your Hands, which explains how the proposed reforms in the Children and Families Bill with affect families of young people with autism. The report makes a number of recommendations that will strengthen the Children and Families Bill if adopted, including:
- a clear right for young people to restart their Education, Health and Care Plan if they return to education at any point up to the age of 25
- a duty on local authorities to provide the support set out in the local offer, as well as publish information about it
- a duty on local authorities to promote continuity of the support set out in an Education Health and Care Plan when a child or young person moves into a new local authority.
Also speaking at the Pears Ambitious about Autism Annual Lecture was David Nicholson, Youth Patron for the charity, who discussed his aspirations and the potential impact of the Bill. The event was chaired by Robert Buckland MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Autism, and York Council’s Head of Integrated Services for Disabled Children Jessica Haslam shared examples of good practice. Speaker John Bercow MP, who is a Parent Patron for the charity, also attended the lecture.
Minister for Children and Families Edward Timpson MP said: “To ensure a smooth changeover, we believe a phased approach will be needed to transfer children and young people with existing Statements and Learning Difficulty Assessments to Education, Health and Care Plans. These changes will need very careful consideration and we’re gathering views from interested parties to find the best way forward. We’ll set out details of our preferred approach in a draft order which will be subject to formal consultation later this year.
I’d like to reassure those worried that existing statements could lose their legal status during transition. I’m clear that existing Statements and Learning Difficulty Assessments will retain current legal rights until they’re replaced by Education, Health and Care Plans.”
Mark Atkinson, Director of Policy and External Affairs at Ambitious about Autism, said: “We hope the Government does not miss this unique opportunity to genuinely deliver support and aspiration for all disabled children and young people for generations to come.
We’re pleased the Minister reassured families that they will still have the protection of Statements of Special Educational Needs until the new system of Education, Health and Care Plans is up and running, and that existing legal duties will be protected. This will reassure many parents who’ve told us they are concerned about support suddenly ending.”
David Nicholson, Youth Patron for Ambitious about Autism, said: “My ambitions are to get married, get a nice house, have children and become a Member of Parliament. I am aspirational. I think that is apparent and I’m not apologising for that. I have a very strong belief that every single autistic and disabled young person in the UK should be able to fulfil their dreams and hopes.”
Ambitious about Autism is the national charity for children and young people with autism. The charity provides services, raises awareness and understanding, and campaigns to make the ordinary possible for children and young people with autism.
Pears Foundation is a British family foundation rooted in Jewish values. Its work is concerned with positive identity and citizenship. The Foundation is a leading funder of autism education in the UK and has invested significant resources in new research and facilities. It sponsors Ambitious about Autism’s annual lectures.