The government has announced it will be providing nearly £60 million to support families and children with special educational needs and disabilities.
The money, available from April 2017, includes £40m for councils to support them in the transition to the new system of education and health care (EHC) plans.
There will be £15 million for the Department for Education Independent Supporters programme, which is run by the Council for Disabled Children. The programme aims to help provide families and young people with special educational needs with trained, impartial people to help support them through the process of developing an EHC plan.
The funding comes after an evaluation report on the Independent Supporters programme, which found that more than 59,000 people were helped in the year up to March 2016, and 90 per cent found the service very or extremely useful.
There will also be £2.3m for Parent Carer Forums, and £1.8m has been given to a programme called Contact A Family, which is aimed at supporting the forums and running their national helpline for families.
Edward Timpson, minister for vulnerable children and families said: “As we enter the final year of the transition, I know there are still challenges to overcome, to ensure that the inspiring work going on in many parts of the country is shared with areas where improvements still need to be made.”
Gail Walshe, head of parent carer participation at Contact a Family, said: "We are delighted that the DfE continues to recognise how parents of disabled children can make a difference.
"Since 2010, parent participation has gone from strength to strength. Parent carers are increasingly at the heart of the shaping and redesign of disabled children's services, which is benefiting all. We are also delighted that the government recognises the invaluable support that the Contact a Family helpline gives to families providing advice and information when they need it most."
There have been concerns that despite "admirable intentions" the reformed SEND system is still difficult for parents to use. A report from think tank LKMco and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation last year highlighted that poor children with SEND were less likely to receive support than those from richer families.
Richard Watts, chair of the Local Government Association’s children and young people’s board, said: “Today’s announcement will see councils receive an additional £4m pounds compared to last year’s funding allocation. This extra money will go some way to help council’s further support children and families with special educational needs and disabilities.
“Councils are doing all that they can to make sure children with SEND get the support and opportunities they need to flourish, but are experiencing increasing demand for all services, while trying to implement significantly underfunded reforms that were set out in the Children and Families Act.
“Proposed changes to schools and high needs funding could also make this problem even worse, taking away the freedom for councils to top up high needs funding from other budgets if necessary.”
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