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iHV submits response to SEND review consultation

22nd July 2022

iHV submits response to the Government’s special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) review consultation

Yesterday, we submitted the Institute of Health Visiting’s response to the Government’s SEND Green Paper consultation. Our response was led by Georgina Mayes, our Policy and Quality Lead, in collaboration with a range of stakeholders from across the sector and based on the best evidence of what works. We support the ambitions of the Green Paper’s policy proposals to end the postcode lottery of SEND provision, and our response aims to ensure that the needs of babies, young children with SEND and their families are recognised as early as possible and effectively addressed.

The Government commissioned the SEND Review in September 2019 as a response to the widespread recognition that the system was failing to deliver improved outcomes for children and young people and that parental and provider confidence was in decline.

The review sets out the Government’s proposals for a system that offers children and young people the opportunity to thrive, with access to the right support, in the right place, and at the right time, so they can fulfil their potential and lead happy, healthy, and productive adult lives.

Alison Morton, iHV Executive Director, says:

“Nobody can argue with the aspirations set out above – what we now need is sufficient resource and the action that will be needed to make the difference for babies and children with SEND, and their families. There is no dress rehearsal for the earliest years of life which lay an important foundation for lifelong health and wellbeing – what happens during this time matters for all children, and it really matters for children with SEND who are currently being let down.

“If we are serious about improving outcomes for children with SEND, we need investment to reverse years of cuts to prevention and early intervention services. This includes rebuilding the health visiting workforce. Cutting this universal safety-net of skilled professionals, that reach all families to identify the early signs of SEND, has been a false economy as any short-term savings are quickly offset by increased delayed treatment costs and, for some, the consequences have been catastrophic”.

In our response to the consultation, we have sought to provide constructive feedback on the proposals and to suggest areas that we think the Department for Education and the Department of Health and Social Care should explore further. We have not responded to all the questions in this comprehensive consultation – we have specifically responded to the consultation questions that are relevant to the health of babies, young children, and their families.

We remain committed to ensuring that babies are not overlooked in national policy – we were therefore disappointed to see the lack of focus within the Green Paper on prevention and the early identification and support for babies and young children with SEND. Early intervention relies on the early identification of babies and young children at risk of poor outcomes – without an acceptable universal mechanism of identifying these children who are often invisible to services, all strategies will struggle to reach underrepresented groups and reduce inequalities.

Babies and young children are citizens in their own right and they are entitled to the same access to health and social care as older children and young people, but they rely on the adults around them to be their voice when their parents or carers are unable to speak for them. It is vital that their voice is heard in this consultation.

We recommend that the scope of the forthcoming policy is ambitious and extends beyond the Department for Education, with clear commitments and lines of accountability that extend across the multiple government departments that contribute to SEND outcomes. In particular, our response has focused on the vital contribution that health visitors bring to the success of the SEND programme. The need to improve the coordination of care for these families is well documented – health visitors are a skilled workforce who can support parents to navigate the complex systems of support.

It is widely recognised that parents of children with complex health needs are at increased risk of experiencing additional stress; parenting a disabled child goes beyond ‘ordinary’ parenting. It is not surprising, therefore, that parents of children with SEND are more likely to require support than parents of non-disabled children. Services which are accessible and offer a partnership approach where parents are involved in decision making result in improved parent satisfaction, decreased parental stress, and an improvement in child outcomes.

Services need to be flexible and promote individualised care which requires that joint working is coordinated between the family and all practitioners involved. Health visitors also play a crucial role in supporting access to wider support (such as improving uptake of Early Years provision, relevant disability and income-related benefits, and reducing parental conflict), as well as effective transition to school and the school nursing service.

Fundamentally, the success of any SEND plan hinges on having the right workforce with the right skills and in sufficient numbers to address the level of need. Current workforce challenges are significantly hampering improvements in the quality and amount of care and support that families receive and cannot be ignored. We have specifically highlighted how cuts to health visiting services have had a direct impact on the timely referrals to specialist services with many services reporting problems with late identification of SEND and wider vulnerabilities.

Georgina Mayes, iHV Policy and Quality Lead says:

“Unless workforce shortages are addressed, then no amount of planning, strategy, partnership working or understanding of need is going to work. A well-resourced national health visiting workforce plan is needed as part of a whole system’s approach to improving the lives of babies, children, and young people with SEND. We need more health visitors!”

We would like to thank the health visitors, parents and charity organisations who have contributed to our response to this consultation. We really value their time, commitment, expertise and knowledge.

We look forward to seeing the publication of the Government’s SEND Green Paper consultation. For more information, read the iHV’s consultation response (PDF).

If you would like to stay updated on and get involved in this work, please contact [email protected]