Yesterday, we kicked off a week of blogs about special educational needs (SEN) reform. All of these changes came into effect in England yesterday via part 3 of the Children and Families Act 2014 which sets out all the key changes. And one of the biggest and most positive changes is section 19 where there’s now a clear legal requirement for local authorities to take into account the views of children, young people and their families, involve them in decisions about their SEN support and support them in doing so.
And so our 2nd key issue for local authorities to consider when implementing changes to the special educational needs system is how they’re going to consult with and involve deaf children and young people and their families in decisions about local SEN provision.
One of our biggest worries is that lots of local authorities will treat ‘SEN’ as it were a single entity when we all know that the needs of a deaf child are very different to, for example, a child with autism. And because deafness is a ‘low incidence’ need and the so-called ‘invisible disability’, there is a risk that the needs of deaf children might get overlooked. That’s why we’re calling on local authorities to make sure they seek out and have specific regard for the views of deaf children, young people and their families, making sure that any such consultation and involvement is accessible and meaningful.
Families with deaf children can also help make this happen by making sure they’re at the table when consultation events take place. There are lots of different ways that families can get involved. They can ask to join the local Parent Carer Forum. They can check if there is a Children’s Hearing Services Working Group (CHSWG) in their area and find out who is representing them on this group. They can see if their local Deaf Children’s Society is involved. They can also just get in touch with the local authority and ask about opportunities to get involved.
In partnership with Blind Children UK, RNIB and Sense, we’ve produced a campaign briefing for local authorities that sets out some tips for how they can make consultation, involvement and participation with deaf children, young people and their families a reality. You can help make sure this lands on the desks of the right people in each local authority by taking part in our new campaign action – as always, our website makes it simple and straightforward to take action.
Tomorrow, we’ll be talking about another big change – the Local Offer – and setting out what this might mean for deaf children.