National champion status

TOWN leaders are celebrating after a partnership that has seen the creation of a single assessment plan for children and young people with education, health and care needs was awarded national champion status.

Hartlepool and Darlington councils have been working as a joint Special Education Needs and Disability (SEND) pathfinder – with the aim of testing new Government plans to make the system more co-ordinated and centred on the families needs.

Currently children and young people can be subject to three separate assessment plans – one if they have any educational needs, one for health needs and one for social care needs.

But under new proposals they will be brought together under one plan.

The pathfinder has been such a success that the Department for Education has confirmed it has become a national champion.

It was confirmed at a meeting of Hartlepool Borough Council’s children’s and community services portfolio and means staff will be asked to speak at conferences and to go to other areas to talk about their work.

Portfolio-holder and independent councillor Cath Hill said: “Well done for becoming a national champion.

“This is great news and the pathfinder seems to be very well run.”

At the end of January, 20 town families had been through the new co-ordinated 15-week process, rather than the current 26-week process.

There are currently 350 children subject to a plan of some kind and they will have to go through the new process.

The new plans will also cover young people from birth to 25 rather than birth to 18, as is the case now, and the aim is to have the new system in place by September 2014.