Ten Local Authorities to help families with disabled children get the services they need

SENdirectTen Local Authorities from across England are set to work with a group of leading disability charities to make it easier for families with children who have special education needs or disabilities (SEND), find and use their local education, health and social services.

The way people access education, health and care services is changing. The government has put increased focus on ‘personalisation’ and 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 of accessing a personal budget – money allocated by local authorities so people can arrange and pay for essential support services themselves.

However, research carried out by the eight disability charities – known collectively as the SEND Consortium – showed that the majority of families with disabled children remain unaware about personal budgets or don’t know how to use them effectively.

As a result, the ten Local Authorities have all agreed to work with the SEND Consortium and help produce and pilot SENDirect – a ground breaking ‘brokerage’ service that aims to help improve understanding, use and access to personal budgets for families with disabled children in the area.

Jolanta Lasota spokesperson for the SEND Consortium says: “It’s fantastic that ten Local Authorities have come forward so quickly and agreed to help us develop and pilot our planned brokerage service, SENDirect.

“Helping children and young people with SEND and their families receive the right services at the right time is key but it is clear that under the current system personal budgets are not being used effectively. At the same time, more needs to be done to help local service providers successfully promote what they can offer and understand more about the needs of children and young people with SEND in their area. We hope that by working with the ten Local Authorities, we will address these challenges, putting in place a brand new system for parent carers to help them use their allocated personal budgets so their children get the local health, education and social services they need.”

The ten Local Authorities working with the SEND Consortium on the SENDirect project are: Bexley, Cornwall, Coventry; Solihull; Oldham; Gateshead; Leicestershire; Essex; Herefordshire and Telford & Wrekin.

The SENDirect project is funded by the Department of Health and the Department for Education. The SEND Consortium plan to pilot SENDirect with the ten local authorities with a planned launch in March 2015.

The SEND Consortium currently consists of 8 leading disability charities: Ambitious about Autism; Contact a Family (currently acting as secretariat for the SEND Consortium); Dyslexia Action; I CAN; Mencap; National Autistic Society; Scope and KIDS. The Send Consortium is a group of leading disability charities who come together to facilitate joint-working across key national third sector organisations, to develop new products and services to meet the requirements of families with children and young people with special educational need and disabilities.

For further information and updates about the SENDirect project please visit www.sen-direct.org.uk

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