Campaigns

2013/14

The Branch participated in consultation on the Council's autism strategy for children, for adults and for speech and language needs. 

The Branch campaigned to get an audit of autism provision in local schools carried out by the national NAS published so parents could make a more informed choice of education for their children. The ICO upheld it was in the public interest for audits of provision to be disclosed.

The Branch continues to campaign on NHS waiting times. Although a post was created at Harrogate CDC to clear the backlog in 2012, this funding was short-lived and quickly cut back before the backlog was cleared. As a result waiting times locally are back up at over 1 year again and the Branch is aware of parents who have waited two years for diagnosis.

2012

The Branch campaigned to reduce wait times at Harrogate CDC for child autism diagnosis and ensure a full service from 0-18 was in place. 
The Branch understands staff are now in place to run a diagnostic service compliant with NICE guidelines however there is a sizeable backlog of cases.

The Branch hosted a consultation meeting with NYCC regarding the Strategy for Meeting the Needs of Children with Autism in North Yorkshire. http://cyps.northyorks.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=21803&textonly=False

The Branch campaigned for NYCC to include and inform parents in consultation on the proposed SEN funding changes due to take place in April 2013. NYCC has currently deferred the changes until 2014.

2011


Proposals to change the funding mechanism for statements and to reduce the number of children with statements - The 'LMS Consultation'

In early 2010 NYCC in conjunction with the Schools Forum decided that the cost of funding statements was too high and that a mechanism was needed to cut costs and also to reduce the number of children at School Action Plus and children with statements (again). This came against a background of year on year attrition in the number of statements maintained going back to 2003, leaving a core group of so called 'high needs low incidence' children with statements, and an ever diminishing group of 'low need high incidence' children with statements. 

The plan was to change how each school was funded, so that instead of providing the total funding for each child with a statement, from September 2011 NYCC would only fund above and beyond the first 20 hours of support a child needed (the current delegation threshold), leaving schools to fund the first 20 hours from the slightly re-jigged delegated budget they already received. The cuts would come out of the SEN budget rather than the whole school budget, which was particularly unfair on children with autism whose performance at Key Stage 2 falls far behind similar children from other local authorities. By comparison children without special needs in North Yorkshire attain far higher SATS marks than similar children from other local authorities.

It was envisaged that the outreach support provided by the newly commissioned Enhanced Mainstream Schools would reduce the number of requests for statutory assessment and statements maintained.

A key indicator of success for this new plan was a reduction in the number of children at School Action Plus and children with statements.

The effects of these changes on children were potentially dramatic. Schools already struggling to fund learning support assistants would find meeting the costs even harder. Those schools known to have a good reputation for educating children with special needs would suffer disproportionately - a school with a high number of statemented children would lose out financially and would have a disincentive to accept any more children with a statement. It would also affect those children on School Action Plus - what school would want to take a financial risk on a child who may need a statement in future? 

Children who formerly would have been statemented would also have to go through the standard admissions process transitioning to secondary school- reducing choice for a very vulnerable group.

NYCC originally had no plans to consult parents about these changes. It contacted PACT, the parents' group, in February 2011, giving them very short notice in which to formulate a response - well outside the recommended timeframe for a consultation of this type. The Branch wrote to NYCC objecting to the lack of proper consultation, opposing the cuts and reductions in those children on School Action Plus and statements.

As a result of the Branch's letter, and in conjunction with the responses from PACT, NYCC agreed to consult parents in autumn 2011 with the intention of bringing the cuts in during April 2011, but then subsequently dropped the proposal altogether. We have received no information regarding NYCC's proposals to reduce the number of children on School Action Plus or with statements, and can only assume this is going ahead.

It is instructive to read some of the responses from schools to the consultation - just two quotes below:

Therefore to use a top up model of over 20 hours would be suicide for this school. We simply would not be able to function.
Without money to fund new statements which will undoubtedly come in the future, this currently ‘outstanding’ (Ofsted) school which is Leading on Inclusion in North Yorkshire, Enhanced to support children with BESD, a Hub School for MEA children and a beacon for good practice would slide into total chaos.

and

I cannot support the top up model. Schools which have a good reputation for working with children with special needs and therefore are actively chosen by parents because of this, will suffer heavily financially. As a school we have a large number of statemented children, a significant number of which are for Autistic children or those with Global Delay. These children need a statement if they are to be included. We work hard to be an inclusive school but without funding for these children, this would be seriously jeopardised. 

An excerpt from the consultation document, worked funding examples, the Branch response, the responses from schools (via a Freedom of Information request) and confirmation the proposal was dropped can be found here



Statutory Proposals Issued to Close the Resourced Provision at Hookstone School, Harrogate

Following the consultation to change the resourced provision at Hookstone School to an Enhanced Mainstream School (see 2010), the Council decided it's proposals were satisfactory and issued statutory proposals to change the provision on 22 March 2011. The period for response runs until 12 May 2011. This is part of a legal process the Council must follow.

In summary the Branch believes the EMS at Hookstone is already operating, it welcomes the increase in provision EMS brings more widely across the county for those children for whom EMS is appropriate and for those parents who want it, but does not believe the EMS at Hookstone is an improvement on the resourced unit, which is the test the Council have to demonstrate is met, otherwise the proposals must be rejected.

The Branch are also significantly concerned by two further issues: 

1    the Council's stated policy not to specify the number of hours of 1:1 teaching assistant support children with statements in special schools or EMS will receive, leaving that for the school to decide. In the Branch's view this is an unlawful, blanket policy. The effect of not specifying provision is that statements become considerably weaker and cannot be enforced, and allow provision to be removed without proper challenge.

2    the policy not to allow parents to name an inreach place on a proposed first statement, and the Council's policy not to name an inreach place for any child receiving a first statement. The Branch believes this policy is unlawful too.

The Branch has included these concerns in its response to the Council, asking for them to be changed and asking for any legal advice it has received regarding these policies.

If you are affected by any of these issues, please contact the Branch.

Council documents are number 10 and 11, and the Branch's response is numbered 12. The Branch has also made a Freedom of Information request regarding the issues of significant concern (13)  here.



2010


Closure of Hookstone Community Primary School Resourced Provision

The Branch is involved in an ongoing complaint about the consultation to close Hookstone Resourced Provision - a unit for children with communication and interaction difficulties (which includes autism). The unit closed in July 2010 and the school became an Enhanced Mainstream School at the beginning of September 2010. The Council began consulting on changing the provision on 17 September 2010.

If you have been affected by the closure of the unit, please contact the branch.

The Branch's consultation response and correspondence with the Council is here (pdfs)


Enhanced Mainstream Schools Consultation to add In Reach (Nov 2009-June 2010)

The Branch became involved after concerns were raised that the Council was not publicising this consultation widely enough, had not explained the consultation clearly and had not consulted families and children who would be affected by these proposals. We wrote to the Council and asked them to consult again, and give more information about what was being proposed. The Council extended the consultation and attended a branch meeting, which was attended by around 50 concerned parents as well as Andrew Terry and Jenny Morgan from the Council. It provided more information on it's website.

The correspondence will be available shortly


Omission to the Schools Prospectus 2011-12

The Council produces an annual guide to all the schools in the authority. It is the main way in which parents can find out about the different schools they can consider sending their children to. By law any school that has a specialism must be noted as such in the prospectus (Schedule 2, Part 2, 11g The Schools Information (England) Act 2008). This guide failed to detail the specialist provision at Hookstone Chase Community Primary school for children with communication and interaction difficulties (including autism). We wrote to the Chief Executive of the Council, Richard Flinton, asking him to amend the guide and inform parents who may be affected by the omision. He declined to do so.

If you have been affected by this omission, please contact the branch.

The correspondence with the Council is here (pdfs)


Diagnosis for children over seven withdrawn

Following calls to our helpline from parents who were unable to have their children assessed for autism or Asperger's Syndrome, the Branch is investigating why the service was withdrawn in 2010 and what steps are being taken to reinstate it. If you are the parent of a child over seven and are looking for a diagnosis, please click here

If you have been affected by the withdrawal of services, please contact the branch.

The correspondence will be available shortly
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