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National evaluation of the Independent Support Programme

Published: 29/01/16

This interim report for the Department of Education (DfE) and Council for Disabled Children (CDC) shares emerging findings and lessons from an analysis of information gathered during the first three stages of the national evaluation.

It gives a picture of the first 12 months of the IS Programme (September 2014-August 2015) which is due to finish in March 2016, and has been produced primarily for the Independent Support Programme Board, delivery partners and participants from 12 fieldwork sites involved in the evaluation.

Others will find the key messages and lessons of interest – for example those involved in the implementation of the wider SEND reforms, families, children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities, and those concerned with embedding person centred practices into the wide range of supports currently available to make the transition to Education, Health and Care Plans a success.

The full report is available to download via the link on the right.

The first overarching message from our analysis to date, is that it is too soon to be thinking about ending the IS Programme (i.e. in March 2016). It is only just gathering momentum at a local level and is taking time to take effect both for individual families/young people and those delivering the service. 

We are delighted to hear the announcement from the Department for Education that £15m has been earmarked to extend the Independent Support programme for a further year. Please see link on the right.

Independent Supporters can be and often are a catalyst for change, helping to embed the culture of the SEND Reforms in organisations and with families so that they have a wider impact on local support systems as well as with individuals.

The added value of Independent Support (IS) is most often demonstrated through the experiences of parents who have experienced IS as a distinctly new resource, a focused capacity “just for us”, and access to enhanced support.

There are some major issues about the negative impact on families/young people when IS and the wider system is not proactive or responsive.

A question of whether single or dual provision is “best” – there are a range of pros and cons associated with both single and dual provision of IS. For example, the clarity and simplicity of having one IS provider versus the choice available for some people in being able to access Independent Support from more than one source.

Successful delivery of Independent Support is contingent on the adoption of person centred practices and decision making at all levels of the system and wider roll out of personalised options for support.

Some wider aspects of personalisation are not connected to independent support. For example, little mention is made of the take up and use of personal budgets and the potential role of IS in enabling these discussions in the assessment and planning process.

Finally, the importance of embedding a culture of self-and independent evaluation and reflection into local support systems has become increasingly clear over the course of the evaluation. 

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