11. Identifying children’s support needs early is vital if they are to thrive, and enables parents and professionals to put the right approach in place quickly. Graham Allen’s review of early intervention highlighted the value of intervening as soon as possible, not just for children and their families, but also for wider society.
12. Too often, the particular support that children and their families require is put in place needlessly late. Although some impairments are normally identified at birth or soon after, other types of need emerge as children grow up. Not knowing why children are developing differently can be tremendously stressful for the child and for their parents. And even when needs have been identified, parents tell us that it can feel like a struggle to get the right support for their family from education, health and social care services. It can be slow and complicated, with different services working in isolation and each having its own approach.
13. We must put in place a system which works well for every child and every family. The proposals in this chapter are intended to ensure high quality early identification and intervention for all children where they need it, such as the health and development review for children aged between 2 and 2½ years, as well as effective integrated support for children with the most complex needs. Our proposals would mean that:
professionals from health services, such as health visitors, and from early years settings work with parents to assess the development of all children to clarify where they need additional support or a different approach;
high quality early education and childcare is accessible to all children; and
by 2014, children and young people who would currently have a statement of SEN or learning difficulty assessment will have a single assessment process and ‘Education, Health and Care Plan’ for their support from birth to 25. The new plan will afford parents the same statutory protection as the statement of SEN. All the services on which the child and their family rely would work together with the family to agree an ‘Education, Health and Care Plan’ which reflects the family’s needs and ambitions for the child’s future covering education, health, employment and independence. The plan will be clear about who is responsible for which services, and will include a commitment from all parties across education, health and social care to provide their services.
14. To work towards this:
we will test how to reform radically the statutory SEN assessment and statement. Local pathfinders will explore the best replacement, including whether the voluntary and community sector could coordinate assessment and bring greater independence to the process; and
before introducing the new single assessment process and ‘Education, Health and Care Plan’, for statements of SEN, we intend to reduce the time the current statutory assessment process takes and explore how to tackle delays in the provision of advice for the statutory assessment.