All in all... Children and Families Bill

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'Shake up' or 'lost opportunity?' Opinions are divided on the Children and Families Bill and children with special educational needs, says Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole.


The Government is changing the system for children and young people with special educational needs (SEN). Children's minister Edward Timpson has described the new Children and Families Bill as 'the biggest shake up to the special needs system in 30 years'. And yet, the Every Disabled Child Matters (EDCM) campaign says the Bill is a 'lost opportunity'.


The key changes for children with SEN are:

  • replacing statements and learning difficulty assessments with a new birth-to-25 Education, Health and Care Plan (EHC), extending rights and protections to young people in further education and training and offering families personal budgets
  • improving co-operation between all the services that support children and their families
  • requiring local authorities to involve children, young people and parents in reviewing and developing provision for those with SEN and to publish a 'local offer' of support.


The changes were initially welcomed by children's charities, but optimism has given way to disappointment. This is because the EHC will not be available to those children who are disabled and have health and social care needs but no special educational needs. This had led EDCM to claim that there will be a two-tier system.

Any EHC plan will only create an entitlement to the education element of the plan; there will be no entitlement to receive the health or social care provision specified.

Some charities have also criticised the proposal for a 'local offer'. Richard Hawkes, chief executive of Scope, said, 'Parents need a guarantee that their children will get the right therapy, nursery or support - not the "SEN Yellow Pages"'.


You can follow the Bill's progress through Parliament at: 2012-13/childrenandfamilies.html.

For details of other proposed changes under the Bill, see 'Children and Families Bill: nurseries-win right to call in Ofsted inspector',

KIDS charity has launched resources to support families with personal budgets, see

Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole is a research fellow in Disability Studies and Psychology, Research Institute for Health and Social Change, Manchester Metropolitan University.

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