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Plenty on the horizon

I am pleased and proud to continue to chair the ADCS Health, Care & Additional Needs Policy Committee. The committee has a wide remit but an important part relates to special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) which has taken on particular importance during the months, and years, in the lead-up to the SEND and AP Green Paper being published last week. I recognise that other ADCS policy committees will have a significant interest here too. By and large, the Green Paper’s aim to provide the right support in the right place at the right time has been well received and deservedly so. ADCS will, of course, respond to the Green Paper in detail and play a full part in sharing our expertise on the way that young people and their parents experience services on the ground.

The paper includes a number of exciting things that are so important. The ambition to digitise the offer for young people and to look at consistency nationally is an important next step. Clarity on roles and responsibilities for all partners with aligned accountabilities is key to success and the call for a greater focus on the needs of children with SEND within the health workforce provides another opportunity. With the recently published Schools White Paper, there is scope to move towards a more inclusive education system which focuses on the holistic needs of children and young people through greater partnership working. However, education is only part of the answer. We need a child-centred vision for what ‘good’ looks like in the SEND system; wrap around support, short breaks and strong partnerships with parents are important parts of this. We have come a long way since the 2014 SEND reforms with improved joint working and there is much more on the horizon. However, our ambitions for children with SEND is rooted in legislation much further back.

In 1982, I was teaching with a responsibility for children with special educational needs. I was very excited to be part of the implementation of the important 1981 Education Act which was a landmark in its time regarding the way that we assessed individual children’s needs and set out their entitlement in a way that parents could co-design and understand. This took us to an important place for the rights of every child. I have every hope that the new SEND Green Paper will be looked back on with the same pride that I look back on that reform, which is so long ago. Good luck to everyone who is going to contribute to this important debate.

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