Practical tips

                                       PLEASE NOTE THIS SECTION IS STILL UNDER CONSTRUCTION

Practical tips

Here are a few handy practical pointers - (n.b. it is best to take legal advice if you are in doubt):

  • Parents have a right to be present during any assessment of their child during the assessment process. The local authority and/or professional involved should tell you this. Para 7:75 of SEN COP confirms: "If their child is to be examined or assessed, parents must also be informed of their right to be present with their child at any interview, test, medical or other assessment which is being conducted and should be told of the time, place and purpose of appointments". If you have applied for a statutory assessment, you can write a letter and let the local authority know that you do not want your child to be seen without your prior knowlege and consent.
  • Occupational therapists and Speech and Language Therapists who are instructed by local authorities usually work under 'block contracts' or have service level agreements. This means that, although they work for the NHS, they are 'contracted' to provide advice or a specified level of provision to the local authority for children with SEN. What does the block contract say about levels of provision in your area? You can make a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to your local authority to find out. For further details on FOIA, see the Information Commissioner's website here FOIA requests can be made over the internet from the website What do they know?
  • You have the right to request all information held by school, the local authority or a health authority on you  and/or your child under the Data Protection ActFor further details on DPA, see the Information Commissioner's website here
  • You are entitled to request that reports on your child are not disclosed without you having had sight of those reports and a chance to check the accuracy of the information. NHS professionals working under block contracts are still subject to ethical and professional duties regarding confidentiality and the guidelines of their own professional body. They are also subject to the Data Protection Act.
  • Local authorities cannot have blanket policies not to do certain things, e.g. not to offer statements or not to undertake statutory assessments for children who are cognitively able or not to offer speech and language therapy to children with autism or not to offer any direct speech and language therapy (i..e 1:1 therapy). In law, this is called 'fettering discretion' as all public bodies are obliged to look at the individual merits of a case and not to just apply the same policy irrespective of the circumstances. A useful IPSEA document covering some of these issues is found here
  • SEN COP confirms that Educational Psychologists and other professionals undertaking assessments "may comment on the amount of provision they consider appropriate". Para 7:79 goes on to say "Thus LEAs should not have blanket policies that prevent those giving advice from commenting on the amount of provision they consider a child requires."
  • It is the local authority's statutory duty to decide on the child's needs and the provision required to meet those needs based on evidence. In relation to Part 2 of the statement, para 8:32 SEN COP confirms that  "the advice received may contain conflicting opinions or opinions open to interpretation, which the LEA must resolve, giving reasons for the conclusions they have reached." If the local authority follows the recommendations of their own professionals, ask them to give reasons why they reject your evidence. 
  • Targets in IEPs (Individual Education Plans) are supposed to be SMARTSpecific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-limited. To be able to measure progress, there should be a baseline assessment, e.g. a way of identifying your child's skill level before the intervention. Progress should be measurable objectively against the targets e.g. 'Billy could read 4 words, he can now read 10 words'. Progress should not rely on someone's subjective assessment, e.g. 'I think Billy seems to be better at reading'. 
  • Meetings are not 'outcomes'. Before every meeting ask yourself 'How will my child benefit from this use of my time?'If you are unsure, ask the meeting-holder to justify the meeting and what it is supposed to achieve. Ask for someone to take a note of the meeting and circulate a record of it for comments and agreement.
  • This includes mediation. Mediation in relation to outstanding issues in the SEN processcan be helpful but it can also delay local authority decision-making (while making them look like they are doing something!) and it can be very stressful to take time off work or arrange child care for meetings which lead nowhere. Ask yourself what the core issues are and whether it is likely that the local authority will listen to your views? Have they demonstrated a willingness to do so before? Have they previously provided you with reasoned decisions regarding any refusal to accept your evidence? It is also important to be confident that the mediator is fully conversant with the law regarding SEN and not just local policy or practice. Local authorities frequently have policies for not doing particular things but this does not make them lawful. If you think mediation could be helpful, consider using an independent advocate. If you go unrepresented, take a friend, make notes, and do not agree anything until you have given yourself time to think. Do not withdraw any appeal until you are confident any promises made will be honoured.
  • In some areas, NHS services permit self-referral for certain therapies, so parents should check their own local area's pathway for assessment by contacting the department concerned.
  • Many parents have reported that their local authority seems to have a habit of sending letters containing 'bad news'(refusals to assess, notices in lieu, complaint responses) at the weekend or during holidays. This can be very stressful and it can ruin 'family time'. Think about writing to your local authority to ask them not to send these letters at such times. It is very easy not to do so and it is even easier to ring a parent and let them know a decision letter is on its way para 2.7 of the COP requires the local authority to “recognise the personal and emotional investment of parents and be aware of their feelings”
  • Chapter 2 of SEN COP requires the local authority to work in partnership with parents. Para 2.2 confirms: "Parents hold key information and have a critical role to play in their childrens education. They have unique strengths, knowledge and experience to contribute to the shared view of a childs needs and the best ways of supporting them. It is therefore essential that all professionals (schools, LEAs and other agencies) actively seek to work  with parents and value the contribution they make". This means that parents have every right to be actively involved in the process and in decisions regarding their child. Do not be made to feel like a nuisance!

No comments:

Post a Comment