AFF receives many enquiries relating to SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability), including accessing the most suitable education for your children, especially when you’re regularly on the move around the UK and overseas. Health & Additional Needs Specialist Karen Ross outlines what AFF has been doing recently to support families…
Last year I used evidence generated from your enquiries to respond to the Government’s green paper SEND review consultation for England. I raised many of the issues you contact us about, including:
- getting an Education Health and Care (EHC) needs assessment and an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP);
- difficulties transferring EHCPs across England, with many local authorities not meeting their statutory duty;
- lack of SEND provision with significant numbers of service children without a suitable school place for months or longer;
- the time it can take for an autism/ADHD assessment and the variation in the process across England.
Since AFF submitted this evidence, the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities and Alternative Provision Improvement Plan: Right Support, Right Place, Right Time report has been published. Some of the commitments in this report that we hope may support you more effectively in the future include:
- delivery of national SEND and alternative provision standards with the intent to provide clarity about what support families, carers and children should receive, reducing the need for families to fight for support;
- an investment of £2.6bn to fund new SEND places and to improve existing provision;
- deliver a standard EHCP template from 2025, with guidance and information on processes;
- local authorities to improve information available to families and provide a list of suitable settings;
- a more joined up response between the Department for Education and the NHS.
AFF, with the other families federations, gave evidence on SEND issues to the Defence Select Committee, discussing issues that arise due to army families’ mobility, which has led to delays in both medical and educational assessments, and getting EHCPs. We also stated that: “AFF has evidence from families whose local authorities say they will not confirm what support will be provided to the child until they actually move into that area.”
AFF is tracking the following areas on your behalf:
- transfer of EHCPs from one local authority to another;
- lack of information from local authorities – families tell us this is a constant battle;
- issues with career management.
We’ll also be keeping an eye on how the Government’s proposals in its SEND improvement plan are rolled out and monitoring the impact for you and your family.
AFF continues to work closely with the MOD Armed Forces Families and Safeguarding (AFFS) team to give feedback on policy and processes.
AFFS has created a UK Armed Forces Carers’ Statement of Intent and we will be supporting its work to help carers in the armed forces.
Its new website will be a one-stop shop for policies and information. Currently this is hosted on MOD SharePoint but a replica of the site will be created on Defence Connect with the ambition of hosting the information on gov.uk in future.
SUPPORT FOR FAMILIES
Supportability and additional needs policy
It’s mandatory for army personnel to register their family’s additional and supportability needs with their chain of command and Army Personnel Centre career managers, so that they’re aware of any extra support you may need, particularly before a new posting. AGAI 81 Part 8 provides guidance on the support available and process to follow. Registration is done by completing Annex L – career management notification proforma. More at aff.org.uk.
If you’re considering an overseas assignment and have a child with SEND, you’ll need medical and educational clearance before you can accompany the serving person. JSP 770 Chapter 2A has now been replaced by a new MOD policy Assessment of Support Needs for Accompanied Assignments Overseas. See gov.uk
Defence Children Services (DCS)
DCS’ responsibility is to support service families with issues relating to education and care. AFF works closely with its Education Advisory Team (EAT) (UK) and its Overseas Education and Supportability Team (OEST). EAT (UK) provides guidance on the education of service children in the UK, including SEND support. The OEST provides guidance on education support for children overseas and also provides educational support for overseas commands and DCS schools and settings.
The MOD Wraparound Childcare (WAC) scheme enables working families to claim up to 20 hours a week of before and after school childcare for four to 11-year-olds. If your child has a disability, you can claim WAC until they’re 16. See aff.org.uk
The Forces Additional Needs and Disability Forum (FANDF)
FANDF is a tri-service group for serving personnel, reservists and their families who have a child or adult family member with an additional need and/or disability. FANDF is facilitated by SSAFA and one of its main roles is its biennial conference.
Karen attended the last conference in June and hosted an AFF stand. She says: “The conference is an opportunity for families to meet MOD policymakers and professionals. Families were able to raise the issues that affect them with the promise that these will be investigated and addressed by MOD and the single service chain of command too.”
There were updates from the AFFS team, including the Education Policy Team and an overview they of the work they are doing with the MOD Local Authority Partnership and the Department for Education. The CanDiD Network, Education Advisory Team (UK), SSAFA and the other families federations were also represented.
The Adjust Network
SSgt Julie Murray has been involved with setting up the Adjust Network to give more support on neurodiversity and SEND issues to service personnel and their families. Julie said: “I’m trying to increase awareness of the local authority local offer and to integrate with communities to prevent isolation, particularly when the service person is deployed.” The network can be accessed on Defence Connect.
The Garrison ASSIST (Assessment, Support and School Inclusivity in SEND Teaching) project at Catterick Garrison has been set up to make sure that SEND provision for children and young people is the best it can be. A group of nine schools have teamed up to ensure support is in place for children with SEND, including highly mobile pupils.
If you’re in Catterick, have a child with SEND and would like to be involved, email GarrisonAssistProject@gmail.com