This response is prepared on behalf of the Cerebra Legal Entitlements and Problem Solving (LEaP) Project.
The LEaP Project is an innovative problem-solving project that helps families of children with brain conditions cope with the legal barriers they face. We listen to families and help them get the knowledge they need to access health, social care and other support services. We identify the common legal problems that prevent families getting access to services and we develop innovative ways of solving those problems. We aim to reach as many families as we can by sharing our solutions as widely as possible.
Citations in the green paper are referenced using [para/page].
- This response is concerned with disabled children’s social care as it relates to the SEND Review.
- The government, through the SEND green paper, intends to introduce a new single system for SEND and alternative provision that will provide new standards in the quality of support given to children across education, health and care. It recognises a significant number of children and young people with SEND require support from social services, and also the need for education health and care systems work together effectively. The SEND Review purports to have looked at the complete education, health and social care systems which include social care for children with special educational needs and disabilities.
- The green paper identifies the following problems with social care:
- Some families are put off seeking support because they feel they will be blamed for the challenges their children face and will be treated as though there is a safeguarding issue rather than a family in need of help due to the child’s impairment.
- The difficulty in navigating social care assessments.
- The lack of consistency in the “offer” among local authorities, meaning support is only available in a crisis
- Families struggle to access the social care support they need with over half of parents and carers having to give up a paid job to care for their disabled child.
- It identifies a number of solutions, including:
- A non-statutory social care national standard (this may be different between children’s and adult’s social care) that will minimally:
- Establish a SEND Delivery Board to develop the national standards.
- Establish a Regions Group that will in part be responsible for integrated delivery, of social care, that will hold local authorities to account.
- “Explore opportunities for streamlining EHC and social care assessments”
- Review whether Sections H1 and H2 should remain distinct within EHC plans
- Improve access to wrap around services
- Provide more timely access to social care
- Allow local authorities to bid for funding to increase respite provision over three years.
- Take into account the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care.
- Revise the SEND Code of Practice to “strongly recommend” councils appoint a Designated Social Care Officer.
- Test the value of embedding multi-disciplinary teams including social workers in alternative provision via a pilot scheme.
- Keep its approach to transitions to adult social care under review, as well as adult social care itself.
- Introduce inclusion dashboards
- Work with Ofsted/CQC to update the Local Area SEND Inspection Framework
- The SEND Review makes repeated references to The Independent Review of Children’s Social Care (IRCSC), describing the IRCSC as “taking a fundamental look at what is needed to make a real difference to the needs, experiences, and outcomes of those supported by children’s social care.”
- It will take into account the IRCSC recommendations, which had not been made public at the time the green paper was published, but subsequently were.
- The IRCSC Terms of Reference excluded disabled children, which were expressly to be dealt with by the SEND Review:
The review will give due regard to the SEND Review, which will consider the main [social care] questions relevant to children with special educational needs and disability.
IRCSC Terms of Reference
- The SEND Review does not make explicit that it has the key role with respect to children’s social care, nor that the SEND Review was anticipated to be published before the IRCSC, meaning that the IRCSC did not (and could not) give due regard to its recommendations nor comment upon them.
- It can be argued that to describe the IRCSC as a fundamental review is misconceived because it effectively excluded children with special educational needs and disabilities.
- We are concerned that the SEND green paper gives the impression that the issues around disabled children’s social care have been considered by the IRCSC, when this is not the case, and could be misleading for respondents to this consultation.
- The SEND Review is primarily concerned with education and does not properly, or in sufficient detail, identify all the issues families of disabled children face when trying to access social care. It has provided nothing more than a sketch, while at the same time downgrading parental experiences by characterising them as “parents feel” rather than acknowledging the cold reality of widespread unlawful practice on the part of local authorities.
- It has not considered the main questions surrounding disabled children’s social care.
- Without properly facing up to this reality, the green paper cannot effectively provide solutions to improve social care provision. Given one of the stated aims of the green paper is to save money, we do not have any confidence that the proposals will improve the lives of disabled children and their families.
Casework and research reports
We invite the government to consider the following evidence. Through our casework and research we see local authorities:
- failing to undertake social care assessments
- discriminating against disabled children by unlawfully restricting access to social care assessments (contrary to the Equality Act 2010)
- failing to publish assessment criteria
- falsely accusing parents of fabricating or inducing illness (FII)
- inappropriately focussing on safeguarding children from parental neglect rather than assessing the distinct needs of disabled children and their families
- locating the problems associated with a child’s impairment within the family
- delaying investigating children’s social services complaints
We consider the government needs to extensively re-think disabled children’s social care so that it is placed on the same level playing field as education and taken as seriously as the IRCSC took social care as it relates to all other children.
22 July 2022
 Government press release https://www.gov.uk/government/news/ambitious-reform-for-children-and-young-people-with-send
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 P2 https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/952624/terms_of_reference_independent_childrens_social_care_review.pdf
 It would have been helpful if the Terms of Reference for the SEND Review had been made public.
 See Cerebra research project: Unlawful restrictions on the rights of disabled children with autism to social care needs assessments
 Contrary to the requirements of The Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014 SI 1530 and Schedule 2 para 18