Q&A Children’s Schools and Families Bill

 Q&A Children’s Schools and Families Bill




Anyone involved with supporting a child or young adult needs to be aware of the potential for Children’s Schools and Families Bill to impact on their lives. In this short article we will explore through a series of questions and answers how the Bill could effect the system for supporting children and young people with special educational needs (SEN) and also those who are disabled.

Q. When is the Bill likely to become an Act?

September, 2014

Q. Will statements of special educational needs be replaced by the new Act?

Yes, statements of special educational needs and also Learning Difficulty Assessments (LDA) will be replaced with a new birth-to-25 Education, Health and Care Plan (EHC Plan).

Q. What exactly is a EHC Plan?

This is a document that lists all educational, health and social care needs. It is envisaged that there will be safeguards in relation to educational provision, but there are no new duties in relation to safeguarding health and social care provision in relation to delivering what is contained in a EHC plan, though there is a duty on providers of this provision to co-operate with the local authority.

Q. What might a EHC Plan look like?

Statements of special educational needs have a prescribed form. The EHC Plan is different document and will look different, though it is fair to say that, at the moment, there is not a settled format. Anyone interested in finding out more about how the document could look, may wish to read the following from a company called Mott MacDonald who have been commissioned by the Department of Education to work in developing the process by which EHC Plans will be issued:


Q. If a child currently has a statement of special educational needs, will this be replaced by a EHC Plan?

Eventually yes. It is envisaged that from 1 September 2014, no new assessments for statements of special educational needs or LDAs will be offered by local authorities. All new requests for an assessment of special educational needs will be considered under the new legislation and those requiring support will receive it through an EHC plan. The Government claim that “The reformed mediation and appeals process, and the option of a personal budget for those with an EHC Plan will also be available from this date [likely 1st September, 2014]”

When the new process is introduced, the Government state that the “pace of transition needs to allow sufficient time for local authorities to manage the transfer to EHC Plans in an appropriate way, but should not deny children and young people the benefits of the new system for longer than is necessary”. Importantly the Government wants to minimise the period during which both the new and the old systems are operated in tandem.  Having said all of that, it is clear that that there are no defined timelines for the transition.

Q. What is a Pathfinder Authority?

A. These are Local Authorities who have been chosen along with their Primary Care Trust (PCT) partners to test out the new process.

Q. If I am in a Pathfinder pilot authority, do I have to accept a EHC Plan rather than a statement of special educational needs?

A. No, parents should be aware that they can choose between the new EHC assessment processes or the existing system. Parents should be aware that, until the new system come in, EHC Plans have no statutory basis and cannot be appealed to the SEND Tribunal should parents disagree with the contents of the document in relation to their child’s education. That said, the Department of Education have advised that, should such conflicts exist, the educational component of a EHC plan should be converted to a statement of special educational needs thus giving the parent appeal right to the Tribunal.

Q. In relation to the new system, what are personal budgets?

A. With the new system Local authorities must prepare a personal budget in relation to an EHC Plan where a request has been made by the parent and the young person. Families can then choose how to use this money to meet their child or young person’s needs to meet the outcomes agreed in their EHC plan. This will mean that personal budgets will be offered to families whose children have an EHC Plan, though these do not have to be accepted by the family.  The amount of money received will be dependent on the assessed needs of the child and this must be spent on support that has been personalised for the child. Such support could include: occupational therapy, physiotherapy or speech and language therapy.

Q. Will EHC plans be an improvement on statements of special educational needs?

The Government are clear that the new system is an improvement. The proposed benefits cited are that, because the age limit is 25, it will help stop children being cast adrift from the support system when their statement of special educational needs ceases at 19 years. Further, personal budgets are put forward as a solution to Local Authorities not providing what is on a child’s statement of special educational needs.

That said, the new system has its critics. For example, it is claimed that, rather than introduce personal budgets, the Government should fix the existing system that is perhaps broken. Furthermore, it is claimed that EHC Plans may be more difficult get than statement for special educational needs.

The Government, has been keen to stress that existing parental rights will not be diluted by the changes, though it would be fair to say that some people have their doubts about this.

Q. Where can I find out more about the changes?

Pathfinder authorities will typically provide information on the proposed changes, and the Department of Educational website is comprehensive on the subject. Parents are advised to review the relevant information contained on the IPSEA website:https://www.ipsea.org.uk  if they want an independent evaluation.

The above has been provided for the purposes of background information and should not be construed as legal advice.

Please see Children and Families Act link as of September 2014.


Sean Kennedy



A message from one of our Patron’s Jo Redman on Anti Bullying Week.

A message from one of our Patron’s Jo Redman on Anti Bullying Week.

Last year I wrote a short piece for Anti Bullying Week and this year I have been asked to do the same. I have been going through a hard time recently and due to this have been really struggling, so I didn’t think it would be possible to follow up on this. But due to my own experiences this is something I feel strongly about and I feel that there is maybe enough energy in me to squeeze something out and hopefully it will be something more meaningful coming from the place I am at currently.

In 2013 I concentrated on my own experiences of bullying interspersed with a message about different forms of bullying and that if you are being bullied telling someone is the right thing to do. So this time I want to take a different approach. I don’t want you to feel sorry for me, I don’t want you to read this and think ‘ah that was a good post’ and then just move on, I want you to read this and not just be mindful or aware but to make a difference. And we can all make a difference, to somebody…believe me.


I often talk about how I grew up and felt lonely, misunderstood and left out. I share how I struggled to join in and interact with other people and how that made me feel different which in turn made me feel not good enough. I talk about how those feelings I already had were reinforced and made stronger by how I was viewed and subsequently treated by other people in my life. When I speak or write about these I give the impression that these are all things of the past, that it isn’t like that anymore and everything now is great. But the truth is it isn’t.


Admittedly a lot has changed. I have grown and I stand up for myself if someone treats me in a way I don’t like. But my experiences are woven into me, they sneak into my interpretations of a scenario and influence how I react. And I am still a person who has autism. I still struggle to relate to, communicate and interact with others. I still exhibit “different” behaviours and react differently than others might and consequently still see those “looks”. Everyday is still a battle, not to get through but to get others to “see” me and to understand why they mostly do not want to. It often feels like a battle that cannot be won, trying to be what I am not to fit in does not work or make me happy but I don’t get very far just as me.


But in spite of this, just being me with the people who are in my life and who do “see” me is the most wonderful thing ever. After all my experiences acceptance truly is one of the most amazing things I have felt and I am lucky to know that. Although we all have the right to acceptance and to be loved for the very person we are, many are not. Unfortunately it seems that there is a big problem in society in that we are not taught to embrace difference but are actually conditioned to be fearful of it.


I often wish vehemently that I was different, that I was more like everybody else and within the context of this piece that evokes deep feelings of sadness inside me. That somebody who does their best to tell and make others feel that it is ok to be who they are does not feel the same way about themselves. That deep down after all the declarations of “I am who I am”, I still feel that that is not good enough. Maybe this is the voice of my current struggles and the fight I am in right now but even so I don’t want to think these things anymore. I don’t want to think it is wrong to be me, I don’t want to feel that being different makes me come up lacking something – I don’t want to keep wishing I didn’t have autism or ADHD just because I think that if I didn’t people would like me more or want to spend more time with me and would ultimately accept me. These thoughts are a waste of time and simply not true.


During Anti Bullying Week I am sure there will be a lot of focus on the act of bullying, the impact of bullying and how to deal with bullying. So I would like to remind you now about the power you hold, the power of your words, of your actions. Not just in standing against bullying or to deter you from potentially being a bully but also in how you can make someone feel valued, accepted and worthwhile. Reach out to those you may usually pass over and include them, however painful it may be to you it is likely to be a lot less painful than the feeling of exclusion. Embrace difference – don’t be fearful of it, different minds are responsible for much of the things you take for granted today. Most importantly spread and embody love and acceptance, we find ourselves in a time where these things are called for more than ever. Always be the difference.


“The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.” Friedrich Nietzsche

This week is the anti bullying week – no one deserves to be bullied at ANY AGE. Anna Kennedy Online launched their comic in the House of commons last year designed and developed by Jo Redman – it is a powerful campaign that continues to get stronger year upon year.

Give us a Break!

Advice for parents : https://www.bullying.co.uk/advice-for-parents/advice-if-your-disabled-child-is-bullied/

Anna Kennedy Online is like an iceberg……under the surface it is ALL going on!

Anna Kennedy Online is like an iceberg……under the surface it is ALL going on!


In our bid to keep the ‘Awareness of Autism’ a very current thing that is always on the rise it is important for us to always be showing the bigger news items because THEY are what attracts attention.

If we achieve something, we let you know! If we come across something we don’t like such as an attitude within a service or professional setting then again we let you know. People want to see the BIG positive stories and also want to know when something needs our attention. Those stories and articles such as Anna winning an Award or Austin pointing out a failing that has been spotted catch peoples eye and as word is spread so awareness is raised.

When Anna, Sean or Austin are out speaking somewhere be it from Westminster to a front room in Wellingborough you can bet it is being done for a GOOD reason.

When all of our faithful followers and supporters like or share something we have written or said then the word is spread. This is a positive on two levels. The first being that some people outside of autism see these things and wonder what the fuss is about. As they look deeper into what is being talked about they slowly start to pick up and learn things. Right there is awareness in action. The second positive is that awareness is also spread and grown WITHIN the autistic community. Each week parents/families already touched by autism, who have been battling alone, suddenly discover by this spreading of the word that their ARE other families like theirs out there and they find a support network to welcome them in where they thought there was none.

So, people see all this and good things come of it. But, is that it? It is great work on its own but is that all the AKO team do? Well let me tell you……..NO!……….away from our events and that awareness raising there is a LOT going. The problem is we just don’t have enough time to talk about it and we don’t like to bang the drum about what we consider to be the job we should be doing…….no one walks into a class and writes a story or article on what Mrs Jones, Geography Teacher, has just done for the last hour. It is her job and she gets on with it. This is very much our ethos, However as pointed out by many, sometimes it IS important to stand up and be counted.

There are two MAJOR elements to the Anna Kennedy Online charity  that unless you are being directly touched by them tend to be unseen. Some not realising that these things exist have even said ‘WOW…..I didn’t know!!’

With the AMAZING support that we have received from people such as ‘West Ham United’ we are able to offer our very own Helpline. This helpline is there for ALL to access and if you ask us to call you back it is FREE! we endeavour to answer all autism related questions and offer support via it. Sometimes it can just be a case of a parent/family wanting a question answering or even just looking for some comfort and reassurance at a tough time (we have ALL had them).

Other times the service becomes more than this and the full weight of our Behavioural Support and Legal advice swings into action. As an example one call made at the begining of January from a mother desperate for help has now become a full working case where our Advocate and Behavioural Support Officer is working with her. Not only is he there to advise but he has been attending meetings and has now worked to push for a thorough diagnosis and statement for the child of this mother where everyone else, School/Doctor etc, had just ignored and abandoned her. That one call has now transformed that mother and child’s lives and right now a much brighter and positive future is now open to them. That is just ONE call of the many received not just weekly but daily. With a small team it is DIFFICULT for us to keep up and sometimes people have to leave a message but WE ALWAYS GET BACK TO THEM. There are set hours for the more general enquiries but our operative (through his own dedicated choice….the AKO way!)  leaves the phone always in reach and has answered and advised people such as a mother who  needed help 11pm one Sunday evening. Autism doesn’t stop for everyone at home so we try to ensure we don’t either.

The second main element is that of our ‘Training Services’. For over a year now AKO has been offering it’s own dedicated training packages. Again, we just don’t get to shout about these very often. Our sessions are targeted at, well, everyone!

Photo: Over the last two days Austin has been out and about bringing awareness training to 50 professionals ranging from Social Workers to Family Liason Officers, SENCOs, TAs and Teachers. We will try and follow him Wednesday when he trains a large family/parent group.

Parents come to learn more and better understand the things that they see happening in front of them. Yes they already have a great deal of experience but it is amazing how a little more understanding of WHY certain things happen and how best to deal with them can make a big difference. Our trainer always jokes that he wants to put himself out of work becase if he can give a BETTER understanding of the very basics and mechanics within autism then less people would need to call for support and help around certain issues. This hasn’t quite worked out for our trainer because now after sessions he has people contact us…..but now to say ‘hey this just happened and rather than worry I knew what to do because I thought about what you have said, THANKS!’

The same applies to all professionals from teachers to social workers and ANYONE that comes into contact with someone on the Spectrum. Our training is very much about sharing information and changing the way people think about and perceive autism.

We know lots of people/groups are charging a lot for training but we don’t see the point in this as it restricts the people who can access and receive it so as a charity we try to subsidise this to a low price that EVERYONE can afford. We are looking to SPREAD the word an cover the costs not make money!  Again such subsidisation is only possible thanks to the likes off ‘West Ham United’. Our trainer is a life long West Ham fan so he likes to publicise their support where ever he can!…….(he has even been found drawing formation plans for seating and handing out orange slices during the breaks! he sees himself as our very own Big Sam!)

So there you have it! a lot more going on than we maybe always let on…….oh and that is without mentioning …….conference talks……parent/support group visits……..school talks……..legal advice on SEN and social care……Autism Dance Day……..Autism’s Got Talent……

written by: Austin Hughes

(for any enquiries or further information email lisa.robins@thevines.org.uk. Our Helpline number is 07710 597457 mon-fri, 9:30am – 16:00 but often answered for emergencies at all other times)

please do join us on Facebook for daily news and infohttps://www.facebook.com/Annakennedyonline

Give us a Break! 17th – 21st November Anti Bullying Week.

Give us a Break! 17th – 21st November Anti Bullying Week.

West Ham United and Anna Kennedy Online says ‘Give Us A Break’ this Anti Bullying Week. 
West Ham Supports Anna Kennedy Online
A survey conducted by Anna Kennedy Online, which included over 900 parents of children with autism throughout the UK has revealed that over 60% of children affected by autism have suffered at the hands of bullies in mainstream schools.
What’s more alarming is that schools are not addressing the problem, with 73% of families stating that it had been either ignored or was poorly handled. these startling results also reveal that a staggering 93% of parents believe that their child’s development and education have been directly affected by being bullied.
The full report can be found here: https://www.annakennedyonline.com/category/research/
Anna Kennedy OBE, Founder of renowned autistic charity Anna Kennedy Online will once again be behind this national campaign with the charities popular and poignant Give Us a Break!
This year, Anna Kennedy Online and Anti Bullying Week are once again  supported by West Ham United, and Anna and her Senior Charity Training Officer Austin Hughes will be focusing on school safety, and the issue of children with autism who are suffering at the hands of bullies as a result of their condition.
West Ham United applauds the work of Anna and Anna Kennedy Online. The premier league football team pledged their support for the charity after Anna worked with the club to create a campaign in the Newham area, where the club is based.
A representative for West Ham United discusses the intended results of the collaboration; “We hope that by highlighting the work that Anna Kennedy Online is doing, more will be done to raise awareness of this concerning problem, and to help families who are affected.”
Richard Mylan, of Waterloo Road fame has also pledged his support to Anna Kennedy Online and Anti Bullying Week. Richard, who has a son with autism recently helped to celebrate the 15th birthday of Hillingdon Manor School, a school, founded by Anna Kennedy, developed especially for children and adults with autism, and was blown away by Anna’s ongoing work.
Richard Mylan and Anna Kennedy OBE
Richard Mylan Actor from Waterloo Road discusses his son’s experiences; “My 9 year old son Jaco has a form of autism called PDD. Though I can honestly say that he has not suffered bullying in all his years at a mainstream school, I am all too aware that he will probably encounter some sort of bullying when he moves to secondary.”
The Government is cutting back on everything at the moment, and the problem is becoming a real time bomb. This situation needs to be addressed, and when it gets to the point where children’s education and lifestyle is being compromised, it is becoming a real problem. We are creating a generation of adults who are unable to integrate into society or contribute effectively.
Richard Mylan then discusses the reasons for the lack of bullying, and the policies in place; “The reason for the lack of bullying at his current school is education & immersion. Jaco and his peers have known him since they were 4 years old and see Jaco’s condition as ‘normal’. They encourage, help and even nurture and that ethos has translated through to the wider school community as he moved to a bigger primary. The new kids saw Jaco’s classmates treating him with respect, affection, valuing his input and this had a ripple effect. I know that my sons situation is probably unique. He will suffer some sort of bullying in his school life and if he does, I would like to think that with so many positive peers looking out for him, it would not escalate & become unmanageable.”
Anna Kennedy OBE, who has two sons Patrick and Angelo who are both on the autistic spectrum has worked with several young people and children with autism who have been affected by bullying. One such lady includes the very talented Alice Jordan who has written a song about her experiences with bullies called ‘You Won’t Hurt Me Anymore. This was a major achievement for Alice, who for many years struggled to communicate. She found her voice with the help of Steve Metcalfe of Music Junction Studio, who helped her record the song.
Alice Jordan
Alice performed her song at Autism’s Got Talent May 2014, which is one of many events organised by Anna Kennedy Online to recognise the potential and positivity of autism.
Anna and her supporters are calling for your pledge to support this essential campaign and help tackle bullying in schools against vulnerable children.
Advice for parents : https://www.bullying.co.uk/advice-for-parents/advice-if-your-disabled-child-is-bullied/

People With Autism Aren’t Being Diagnosed Quickly Enough

People With Autism Aren’t Being Diagnosed Quickly Enough


People With Autism Aren't Being Diagnosed Quickly Enough

Anna Kennedy OBE  and her 2 sons Patrick and Angelo at last years Wear it for Autism Charity Fashion Show.


A North East Mum Anna Kennedy has two sons with autism is Chair of an autism charity and online support website. The charities online survey found that more than 50% of families had to wait five years or more to get a diagnosis for their loved one. Anna Kennedy from Middlesbrough has two  sons  on the autism spectrum; 24 year old Patrick and 21 year old Angelo. They now live in London where she’s started her own school for children with autism after they were turned away by 26  schools. The school is now a Centre of Excellence for children and young adults with autism  and the largest school in the UK. Because of her amazing story, lots of parents started contacting Anna for advice and to share their experience of raising children with autism. This prompted her to start her own website www.annakennedyonline.com and she has built up a following of over 70000 families across social media. Last year she was also made an Honorary Doctor in Professional Achievement at Teesside University. More recently, Anna and her colleague Austin Hughes met with the Department of Health to share results of her survey on autism diagnosis. Out of 2,000 respondents, more than half said they’d waited five or more years to get a diagnosis for themselves or a loved one. Listen to Anna Kennedy OBE interview :

Month: November 2014