If your child is assessed by your local authority and NHS care team as having a learning difficulty or learning disability (i.e. they have a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age and/or their physical disability hinders them from making use of facilities provided for other children the same age in mainstream education) then they will be defined as having special education needs and disabilities (SEND).
Under a new law, Children with SEND are entitled to a coordinated assessment by their local authority and NHS team to ensure that the services they require are secured up until the age of 25. Following the assessment, an outcomes-focused tailored Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan is agreed for your child.
Independent supporters are available to help those having an EHC assessment, or moving from their old statement of special educational needs to an EHC plan. You can find out more about independent supporters from your local authority.
If your local authority makes a decision about the educational support you get and you don’t agree with it, you can appeal the decision.
Even if you/your child does not qualify for special educational needs, your local authority and NHS team are still responsible for ensuring coordinated support in all aspects of education, health and care.
Early years provision
All settings (nurseries, childminders, playgroups) registered with Ofsted follow the early years foundation stage (EYFS) framework, which makes sure that there is support in place for children with SEND. All settings are required by law to meet the Equality Act, and must make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to meet the needs of your child. Every setting will have a special educational needs coordinator (SENCO) and equality coordinators to support your child’s additional needs.
Children aged 5-15 at school
Depending on the level of support your child/young person needs, they can attend a:
- Mainstream school
- Special school for children with severe and complex needs
- Special school for children with moderate needs
- Residential school.
All mainstream schools and colleges will have special educational needs coordinators (SENCOS) and equality coordinators who can help to secure the services and additional help your child requires, even if they are not assessed as having special educational needs.
No school can refuse to admit a child because they feel unable to meet their special educational needs and disabilities. But not all schools will be best equipped to meet the needs of your child and their particular condition.
If your child has mild or moderate cerebral palsy, your decision might be difficult because there will be several school options available to you. If your child has a severe condition, then a specialist school may be best. Your local authority/ child’s key worker is best placed to advise you on the most appropriate school and educational setting for your child. Together you can make a decision that’s in their best interest.
You can find out more at your local authority’s website and the Department for Education website.
Support at age 16+
Under a new law, young people with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) are entitled to receive support through their Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan until they are 25. Previously statements for special educational needs stopped at 19 for young people still at school.
This support focuses on encouraging young people to make decisions and develop skills and qualifications that will help them to achieve their goals (such as going to university or finding work). They will also be supported to move out of their EHC plan to access adult services.
Young people will have more say in the support they receive, and their views and opinions will carry greater weight among their teachers and local authority staff.
If you or your child is unhappy about the educational support received, you can make an appeal to a SEND tribunal.
Support in work
Employers are encouraged by the Government to ensure equal access to work and to support disabled job applicants and employees.
Under the Equality Act 2010, they have a duty to ensure disabled people can overcome any substantial disadvantages they may have by making ‘reasonable adjustments’ to working conditions. If you feel that reasonable adjustments have not been made, then you have a right to take your employer to an employment tribunal.
You may be eligible for the Government’s Access to Work programme to help pay for the cost of support at work. This could include special aids and equipment, office adaptations, special travel needs, communication support and support workers. If you are eligible the department will approach both you and your employer for more information.
You can find out more about the ‘reasonable adjustments’ that employers have a duty to make, and the Access to Work programme at the Department for Work and Pensions website.