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Response to the Government’s SEND and Alternative Provision Improvement Plan

03 March 2023

The Government states that their SEND and Alternative Provision Improvement Plan will provide children and young people across England, with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) or in alternative provision (AP), with high-quality, early support wherever they live in the country.

In principle, Family Action is in support of this announcement, and welcomes the acknowledgement that we need a better system that builds capacity for children and families who require support. The fact that this issue is on the agenda, and that the Government is recognising that there is a problem that needs to be addressed, is something that Family Action is in support of and we recognise this as a positive step in the right direction.

We see first-hand from the services we deliver to children and families the increased pressure, stress and impact having a child with SEND has on both the child and the wider family outcomes

We believe that early intervention is crucial. Our range of services for children with Autistic Spectrum Conditions, or who are neurodiverse, support them and their families before they have an EHCP, being there right from the start of that journey and throughout. Having person centred, non-judgemental and impartial services that can help children and families navigate a fragmented system whilst managing the complexities of daily life makes a significant difference.

Services such as the Special Education Needs Disabilities Information Advice and Support Service (SENDIASS), a number of which are provided by Family Action, and Family Action’s own ‘Helping Hands’ services support parents/carers to put in strategies to cope and to make life the best it can be. Services like these are often the first point of access for families with a child who may have or has SEND.

This is the true early intervention stage which needs to be resourced to meet the growing population of our SEND children – the demand for our services continues to grow and any additional investment that supports this is very welcome.

There is a gap between education, health and social care, meaning families have a fragmented experience and have to tell their story multiple times to get the services they need. Family Action’s Behaviour Outreach Support Service (BOSS) provides a bespoke service in schools that makes a significant difference to children who are displaying behaviours that challenge and works across the system to improve a collaborative approach to meet the child’s needs.

We need to provide more wrap around services to schools to support them in meeting the needs of complex children – not only in the provision of appropriate school places but also emotional and wellbeing support as well as understanding and practical support for parents in managing daily life

We know families of children with SEND are much more likely to be affected by relationship breakdown and stress, economic disadvantage and poorer mental health and wellbeing. Psychology Today reported that in around 40% of families, where there is a child with a disability or additional needs, there is parental conflict. We understand from our own service provision that families will struggle much more when they are left with little or no support. That is why additional, responsive, early support for these families is so important.

The announcement from the Government is positive, but to be successful and to have a positive impact on families, it needs to have a systemic approach, and not just focus on the education of the child, but on a holistic approach for the whole family.

Follow us on social media to find out more about our services that support children, young people and families with SEND as we mark Neurodiversity Celebration Week from 13 to 19 March 2023.