Herefordshire Council is one of only ten local authorities nationally to take part in a project to develop a new service to make it easier for families with children who have special education needs or disabilities (SEND), to find and use local education, health and social care services. To deliver this project, the council is working with a consortium of eight leading national charities.
The way people access education, health and social services is changing. The government recently set out plans to give families of children with SEND an education, health and care plan. This will include the option to access a personal budget - money allocated directly to carers by local authorities and health authorities so they can arrange and pay for essential support services for their disabled child themselves.
However, research carried out by the eight disability charities – known collectively as the SEND Consortium - showed that the majority of families with disabled children remain unaware about personal budgets or lack the knowledge of services available. As a result, Herefordshire Council is working with the SEND Consortium to produce and pilot SENDirect - a ground-breaking ‘e-brokerage’ service that aims to help improve understanding and use of personal budgets for families with disabled children in the area. The council is also being supported by Herefordshire Carer Support and the county’s special schools to trial these services.
Jo Davidson, director of children’s wellbeing, Herefordshire Council says: “We are delighted to be working with the SEND Consortium charities on this exciting new project.
“We want families in Herefordshire to have really good information about what is available so they and their children have more choice, control and independence over their lives. So it’s not good enough that under the current system many parents and carers don’t know that personal budgets exist or don’t understand them.
“We want to do more to help local service providers successfully promote what they can offer and understand more about the needs of children and young people with SEND in the area.
“By working with the SEND Consortium we have a real opportunity to help shape the new brokerage service so confusion and misunderstanding about personal budgets is reduced and more families with disabled children in the area know how to access the vital support services their child needs.”
The SENDirect project is funded by the Department of Health and the Department for Education. The SEND Consortium plans to pilot SENDirect with ten local authorities, including Herefordshire, with a planned launch in March 2015.