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Special Educational Needs

Volume 559: debated on Monday 4 March 2013

16. What steps he plans to take to ensure that children with special educational needs receive a joined-up service across agencies. (145468)

Children and young people’s needs will drive local commissioning arrangements to deliver joined-up services. The Children and Families Bill will require local authorities and clinical commissioning groups to commission jointly the education, health and care provision needed for children with SEN.

What action is my hon. Friend taking to ensure that one of those agencies, the health service, can contribute fully to the provision of services for children and young people with special educational needs?

My hon. Friend highlights an important aspect of the reforms in which many parents are eager to see significant progress. Over and above the new joint commissioning and duty to co-operate, there will be clear and binding duties on clinical commissioning groups to ensure that services meet the reasonable requirements of people for whom they are responsible. The NHS mandate specifically references children with SEN, and we continue to have discussions with the Department of Health. I hope to make further progress in this area.

The Minister is aware of my concern about the gap between the ages of 16 and 18 where children with learning difficulties and special educational needs find that they have only three days a week rather than five. Is there any chance that the new regulations will lay down that such hours will be delivered over at least four days a week?

My hon. Friend has studiously raised this matter on every occasion that we have debated special educational needs in the House during the last four or five months, and I am acutely aware of the issue that he raises, which is relevant to his constituency. He had the opportunity to meet my officials in order to understand better how our reforms will affect the issue that he raises, and I am happy further to discuss that with him as the Bill now moves into Committee. Our overall objective is to improve outcomes for all children with special educational needs, and clearly making sure that they have quality support and provision is at the heart of those reforms.

Order. Having myself known the hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) for three decades this year, I can testify that he is indeed a persistent woodpecker.