National champions bid

A SUCCESSFUL partnership that has seen the creation of a single assessment plan for children and young people with education, health and care needs has been asked to go for national champion status.

Hartlepool and Darlington have been selected as a joint Special Education Needs and Disability (SEND) pathfinder – with the aim of testing new plans by the Government 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.

To date 20 families in Hartlepool have been through the new co-ordinated 15-week process, rather than the current 26-week process.

Zoe Westley, head of social and education inclusion at the council, said: “We have been asked to go for national champion status and we have put in an application.

“This is about the families and the child being at the centre of the plan and 20 have been through the process to date.

“Because we have been asked to carry on, we are being expected to accelerate the process.”

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

Officers said the feedback about the new plans from headteachers in particular had been “positive”.

The latest update about the SEND pathfinder was discussed by the shadow health and wellbeing board, which brings together health and council officials.

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.

Alan Foster, chief executive of the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, asked whether people would be able to insist on a personal budget when the new legislation comes in, and it was confirmed that is the case.

The Hartlepool and Darlington pathfinder has been extended recently for a further 18 months and officials say they are pleased with the progress being made with test cases and piloting the scheme.

Nationally there are 20 pathfinders, including 31 local authorities, and officials say the Hartlepool and Darlington pathfinder is one of the most successful.

If anyone would like more information about the joint pathfinder they are asked to contact Tracy Liveras on (01429) 284876.