Children in Wales facilitates and chairs the Third Sector Additional Learning Needs Alliance (TSANA), a group of voluntary organisations which seek to promote and protect the rights of children with additional learning needs in Wales. We aim to work with the Welsh Government and other organisations to influence legislation, policy and practice in Wales.
Participation of Children and Young People
TSANA and Children in Wales welcomed the introduction of the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Bill to the Assembly last December and the Welsh Government’s commitment to ensure that children have a voice when adults are making decisions that affect them. Children in Wales believe it is essential that children are fully involved, engaged and heard during every stage of the ALN process, and that robust monitoring arrangements are in place to achieve improved child rights based outcomes for children and young people. It is vital to ensure that all children fully understand the ALN process and that appropriate methods of communication are used to support engagement. Participation should be delivered in line with the Welsh Government’s National Participation Standards for Children and Young People which were recently refreshed through Young Wales, which supports the meaningful participation of children and young people in policy development.
Children in Wales believes that the Bill should include provision for a duty of ‘due regard’ to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Disabled People on the face of the Bill. Given the objectives and principles of the Bill, it appears strange that the Bill was tabled without these duties. This represents a missed opportunity to help ensure that these international Conventions are fully embedded in the legislation. We believe the Bill would be better and more likely to deliver on its principles and aims if this is included.
Early Identification and Multi-Agency Working
The Bill aims to support early identification and timely intervention to ensure that every child and young person with an Additional Learning Need can achieve their full educational potential. The Welsh Government considers that sharing information between agencies is essential in terms of early identification of needs and that the right support is put in place for every child to enable children and young people to achieve their best possible outcomes. Children in Wales believes the requirement for organisations to share information could be made stronger and recommend that there should be a duty to work in a multi-agency way, which is underpinned by local protocols between health, social services and education to assess and deliver provision.
The Individual Development Plan
We welcome the entitlement of every child and young person with an Additional Learning Need to a statutory Individual Development Plan (IDP) to support their learning and the introduction of person centred planning system which ensures that the child / young person’s views, wishes and feelings are fully taken into account when preparing and reviewing an IDP. In order for this to happen it is important that all information within the plan must be fully understood by those children, young people and parents that it relates to. Children in Wales is concerned that a statutory template, which is consistent, legally accountable and portable, is not being proposed. We believe that without a mandatory IDP template the Bill will not be able to deliver on many of its core aims. If schools or local authorities develop their own IDPs, this could result in a multitude of templates, which would not support multiagency working or assessing for compliance.
Support for children in the early years and post 16
We are concerned that The Bill gives little information about young people who leave school, and do not go onto further education but require support from social services, health and other agencies. Previously many young people in this position were supported through the Welsh Government funded Transition Key Worker programme which ran from 2008 – 2013 and the convergence funded Regional SEN Transition to Employment Initiative from 2011 – 2014. Children in Wales is concerned that learning from these programmes is also being lost, when evidence from practice could be used to inform the development of future services. We are also concerned that the Bill does not include those young people who are on training placements work based learning or apprenticeship schemes which reflects the options available to other young people above compulsory school age.
If all of the above are put in place, Children in Wales and TSANA will be confident that children with additional needs can access the support they need to reach their full potential.