Change that leads to better lives

“These are our children” New call for evidence

How can we ensure better outcomes for the most vulnerable children and young people? “These are our children” New call for evidence.

The recent news that Dame Christine Lenehan, Director of the Council for Disabled Children, is carrying out a review looking at outcomes and experience of disabled children and young people attending residential special schools and colleges is welcomed by NDTi.

As part of her brief Dame Christine is using the opportunity for a call for evidence from a wide range of individuals and organisations to help find practical solutions to support the Government in its thinking to ensure that this group of children and young people are ensured the same rights and opportunities as their non-disabled peers. This is the first call for evidence of its kind, and we hope it provides us with an opportunity to consider what we need to do to ensure greater inclusion for disabled children and young people.

NDTi have been supporting the SEND reforms since the Green Paper in 2011 as a partnership with the Council for Disabled Children to deliver the Preparing for Adulthood support to the reforms.

It is the hope that this will also offer an opportunity to think about what needs to happen to ensure children and young people with the most complex of needs are included in their local schools and local communities from the earliest years. For families to feel they will have the right support so their children’s needs will be met resulting in a positive experience at school, and in their communities.

We have written already on what we often see is a fragmented system with professionals working in silos across departments and agencies despite policy and legislation that places a must on integrated working and a must on joint commissioning. We still have young people’s wishes and views not being taken into account despite a must around placing the child/young person and their family at the heart of plans.

We welcome this opportunity to understand better what needs to happen to provide the right early support for families who have children and young people with the most complex needs, and to ensure that families have greater access to skilled and knowledgeable professionals so that they can enjoy their children and live ordinary lives.

We know from our own experience that children and young people often end up in residential settings (including assessment and treatment centers) because the system failed them. Failed them by not supporting them early enough, not working together across education, health and care and not listening to (or asking the right questions of) children, young people and their families to understand what’s working and what isn’t working to support doing things differently in a more joined up way – leading to better outcomes for all.

We also know that we have great case examples of young people who have had the right support to go to their local schools, make friends, achieve well and move into a meaningful adult life.

Two young people spring to mind here instantly. I remember a conversation a few years ago with a mum of a young man (now in his early 20s) with autism. She described a “fight” (with success) with her local authority ending in tribunal to enable her son to go to a residential special school. She then described to me how the family had just returned from Texas, where specialist provision doesn’t exist in the same way. James had attended his local high school (he had no choice) and his mum was terrified that they wouldn’t meet his needs, he would become isolated and that his behaviour would deteriorate. Interestingly, the opposite happened. With support from a circle of friends at school, James was encouraged to participate in the daily school routine, and with an autism unit as part of the school he was enabled to have time out when he needed it. James’ mum shared her “light bulb” moment with me, when she had taken a 13 year old James to the park. 2 girls skipped over to her (they recognised James from school) and said they would play with James. An anxious mum hiding behind a tree (!) watched as the girls included James in their play. It was at that point that she realised he was part of his school community and he did have friends. She is now a strong advocate for inclusive education!

The other more recent story is that of Wilf who we have mentioned numerous times in our work through Preparing for Adulthood. Fair to say that Wilf is a complex young man with lots of lovely attributes, but a few challenges too! Wilf has a great circle of friends including Heera and Junior who speak so eloquently about Wilf through our PfA videos.

With the right support Wilf has been able to enjoy school, have friends and is now being supported to work as a Barista in his local coffee shop. If you get the chance listen to what Junior and Heera have to say about how their lives have been enriched by having Wilf as one of their friends.

So, we welcome this opportunity to consider the evidence base and to think differently around how we support this group of children and young people in their local communities, through early intervention, integrated support, and the use of budgets more effectively so that this group of children and young people do achieve and have the same opportunities as their non-disabled peers.

As Dame Christine says: “These are our children” I would add to that they are “Everyone’s responsibility”

The link for the call for evidence can be found here.

For more information about children and young people’s work NDTi does please contact: Julie Pointer – Children and Young People’s Lead,

NDTi have developed a resource to help LA’s consider a pathway approach for their most complex children and young people. It has been developed as part of Transforming Care and is available here.

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