If the levelling up agenda is to prove successful, we must ensure that equality of opportunity is to be the driving factor of policy both nationally and locally.
There are many different steps the Government, Local Authorities, business and the voluntary sector can take to improve outcomes for everyone by working in partnership but must use every policy lever to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on some of the most vulnerable in our community.
Young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) experienced “ profound disruption “ to their wellbeing and development during lockdown and it is crucial that we build back better by providing the parents and families with children who have SEND the extra support and reassurance they need.
An Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) is for children and young people aged up to 25 who need more support than is available through special educational needs support. However, it is recognised that many EHCP’s are unduly weighted towards the educational experience each young person receives rather than being a bespoke strategy to give the additional health and social care support that may be needed.
Community Special Schools are therefore often in the position that other services have to be commissioned to support the young person through their developmental journey. However, there is not a regular unified commissioning body to provide these services, which has created a disjointed system beset by delay.
An example of this is mental health services, which can be out of line with the EHCP and with the complexity of needs in many cases being referred to adequate mental health provision is often very difficult.
In my view a solution to these issues, would be the establishment of an SEND Hub within every council area in the country. Staff from the various commission bodies working under one roof, where professionals and family members can turn for immediate help to find the bespoke support that is needed to match the unique needs of every young person.
A SEND Hub would however have a wider remit, in that it would provide assistance through careers and employment services to ensure children and young people with SEND have opportunities to enter a wide variety of work placements and career opportunities.
SEND Hubs would provide inclusive, continuity of provision tailored to the bespoke needs of each young person at a local level to support the overarching aims of the EHCP and in my view would at the very least close the aching gap where children with SEND do not have equality of opportunity. As stated above, we must address this issue in the levelling up agenda if the phrase is to mean anything at all.