Saturday, 9 November 2013

Interesting views of the NUT on Parents and SEN Direct Payments

I thought the July 2013 briefing by the NUT on the Children and Families Bill made interesting reading, especially in relation to its concerns about parents's ability to:

  • cope with SEN direct payments
  • do what is best for our child

Read on........

"Clause 49, as presently drafted, gives the parent a statutory right to require the local authority to prepare a personal budget and make direct payments even in circumstances where the school does not want this or where it would not be justified in terms of efficiency or economy. It is not to disparage the vital contribution that parents make to recognise that there will be occasions when their wishes would not necessarily be the best for their own children or reasonable in the context of an efficient and cost effective system for all children.

There is concern that the introduction of direct payments could lead to services disappearing because the funding will not be secure as it will not be possible to predict which services parents will buy into. The options which parents have will reduce - because lack of financial viability will mean the range of services will decrease. Services for low incidence SEN will particularly be put at risk. Instead of promising parents greater ‘choice’ and raising parental expectations, the Government should focus on the actual barriers which parents face and the factors identified by the Lamb Review into parental confidence which have not been addressed.

The concept of direct payments has been trialled under the SEN Green Paper Pathfinders. In the statutory regulations which enabled this, head teachers were given the ability to exercise professional judgement over whether students or parents could use personal budgets in relation to their school. This was sensible and demonstrated respect for professional expertise and judgement.

Initially teachers were concerned about these proposals which seem to question their professional judgement and the value of their many years of education and training. In evidence to the NUT , 65% of SENCOs opposed allowing parents to control funding for SEN provision.

‘I support parental choice and agree there should be some flexibility in the use of funding, but I am concerned about the quality and appropriateness of many alternative educational provisions which parents might buy and what systems would be in place to audit the use of delegated funding.’

‘Parents can have very differing views from the school and although some would correctly employ the use of funding others may not see the significance of certain resources towards supporting the needs of the child in the school. As a school we already ask for parent’s views and ideas but shared responsibility could cause more issues than it is worth’

The latest report of the DfE commissioned evaluation of the SEND pathfinder programme was published this month, June 2013 and highlights concerns from the parent/carer point of view. The report states that parents/carers “were often more interested in the personalisation of service provision, and less concerned about whether they had responsibility for managing the payment of the support through a direct payment.”

The report found that families perceived the management of budgets, and especially employing personal or teaching assistants as complicated, stressful and time consuming and felt more comfortable having the money managed by the local authority or a third party rather than managing it themselves.

Where parents found direct payments more helpful was in relation to home to school transport. These were also easier to manage largely because this funding stream was more easily disaggregated to an individual level."

Full paper here.

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