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SEND Review

Volume 717: debated on Monday 4 July 2022

5. What steps he is taking to ensure that the SEND review provides adequate support for disabled children and their families. (900837)

21. What steps he is taking to ensure that the SEND review provides adequate support for disabled children and their families. (900854)

The special educational needs and disabilities and alternative provision Green Paper aims to ensure that the right support is delivered in the right setting at the right time for all children and young people with SEND, including disabled children. To help to achieve that, it proposes nationally consistent SEND standards be set across education, health and care.

At a virtual parliamentary event I hosted with the Disabled Children’s Partnership a few weeks ago, I heard from parent carers who had to fight tooth and nail to get the right school for their disabled child, one that met their needs. I have also heard those experiences from constituents in Durham. That is why it is so concerning that in the SEND Green Paper the Government are proposing to stop carers’ being able to specify a school for their disabled child, making the process even harder. Can the Minister outline how families with a disabled child will still be able to get the right education under this proposed policy?

I thank the hon. Lady for her question and I encourage everyone to take part in the SEND review consultation, which will expire on 22 July. The specific point she raises, on the tailored list of settings for parents in our proposal, is absolutely not about reducing costs; it is designed to support parents and carers in making an informed choice about which setting they would like their child to go to. I would be very happy to set out the policy in further detail in a meeting with her.

I commend research carried out by the Disabled Children’s Partnership, whose findings are quite disturbing. It is essential that the SEND Green Paper that the Minister refers to improves accountability in the system. I have also consulted with my constituents in east Durham, who say that not only must disabled young people be able to get the support that they need and have a legal right to, but service providers must be held to account when they miss legal targets. What plans do the Government have to directly intervene when service providers do not meet their legal duties in respect of providing health, care and support to disabled young people in their care?

The hon. Gentleman is right that accountability has to be at the heart of our proposals, and everyone who provides support for children and young people with SEND has a responsibility to deliver it effectively. That is why we are creating new national standards, and creating local and national dashboards so that local authorities, organisations and those who provide SEND services can be held to account. He is absolutely right that accountability and redress mechanisms are at the heart of our proposals. This is a consultation, and it is live until 22 July. We are consulting because we genuinely want to hear the views of the sector and all the parents and carers of children with SEND. Of course I would be very happy to meet him.

My hon. Friend the Minister knows my passion for looking after children and young people around the SEND sector. I welcome the Green Paper and the consultation, because this is a debate that we have needed to have for some considerable time. But the issue in Hertfordshire is going to be around capacity, because the special educational needs schools in my constituency, which are brilliant, are full and double-oversubscribed. This is not all about money—it is sometimes about how it is provided—but there are serious financial problems in Hertfordshire, and I wonder if he would look at that seriously for me.

My right hon. Friend has raised this issue with me on numerous occasions. He is a doughty champion for children with SEND and their parents and carers in his constituency. Of course I will look at this very closely. These are not just words: we are backing this up with £2.6 billion of capital funding to build about 33,000 or 34,000 SEND places across our country, including in Hertfordshire.

I thank the Minister and the Minister for School Standards, who jointly hosted a roundtable on how we better identify children with dyslexia. Can I invite the Minister to support my private Member’s Bill, which will have its Second Reading on 16 September, to make sure that we get the data from early screening so that we can identify children’s and young people’s needs and give them the help and support, and the knowledge that they have that support, to enable them to go on to thrive, flourish and make the most of their lives?

I thank my right hon. Friend for all his work in this area. It was a pleasure to join him at that roundtable. We want all children with SEND to get the right support in the right setting at the right time. At the heart of our reforms is early identification, early diagnosis and early support. Of course I will continue to work with him as we develop our plans as part of the review.