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Making a splash at Ponds Forge

Disabled children and their families turned out in their droves on Sunday 15th May to enjoy a fun-filled afternoon at Ponds Forge, organised by the Forum with funding from Sheffield City Council.

Around 200 people attended the event, including over 80 children who took part in a programme of activities, including swimming, trampolining, arts and crafts, street dance and ball sports.

Shake-up of SEN system on the agenda

In a Green Paper published on 9th March 2011, the government set out its proposals for reforming the education system for children with special educational needs (SEN).

These proposals include:

1. Replacing Statements with “Education, Health and Care plans” by 2014. These plans would be determined through a single assessment process, and would cover the age range from birth to 25. They would have the same legal status as statements of SEN. Parents would still be able to appeal to tribunal, but may be required to take part in mediation first.

Less money for Short Breaks despite record investment

In December 2010, the Children’s Minister announced that the Government will be providing local authorities with £800m over the next four years to fund short breaks for families with disabled children. This represents approx £200m per year, the highest ever investment in short breaks.

From April 2011, funding for short breaks will be included within the new Early Intervention Grant. This grant also funds services such as Sure Start, youth services, and MASTs (Multi-Agency Support Teams). The short breaks money will not be ring-fenced. This means that local authorities can choose to spend it on other things.

Parents' protests save respite care home

When plans to close Rushey Meadow, a respite care home for children with severe learning difficulties in Bannerdale Road, were published in the Sheffield Star, parents of children who use the centre were devastated.

Plans outlined in the council’s 2011/12 budget proposed to save £120,000 by giving families personalised budgets from which to purchase their own respite care.

1million for exceptional needs in mainstream

Sheffield City Council has allocated an extra £1m to pilot a new way of funding support for pupils with exceptional needs in mainstream schools.

The extra funding will be devolved to 5-10 “families of schools” (each family consists of a secondary school and its feeder primary schools and nurseries). The schools in each family will need to agree which pupils should benefit, and how they should be supported. The intention is to target pupils who, without this additional support, might otherwise transfer into special schools or IRs, or be at risk of being excluded.

Parent Carer Conference

Around 100 parents and professionals attended the Forum’s 3rd Parent Carer Conference. The event took place on the 11th of October 2010, at St. Mary’s Church and Conference Centre in Sheffield.

The morning session featured a presentation by Mary Collins, Principal Educational Psychologist, about a proposed new strategy for meeting additional needs in Sheffield’s schools (the Inclusive Learning Strategy). Parents then got together in groups to discuss different aspects of the strategy and note down key points. The outcomes of these discussions were fed into the Council’s consultation on the Inclusive Learning Strategy, and also the government’s call for views for a forthcoming Green Paper on SEN.