Empowering Parents: Unveiling Challenges in Personal Budgets for Children with SEND
A recent report by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman sheds light on a pervasive issue concerning parents of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). The central concern revolves around the limited autonomy afforded to these parents in choosing how their children receive support. The crux of the matter, as identified by the Ombudsman, lies in councils’ incomplete grasp of the personal budget process.
A personal budget, a financial allocation designated by the council, is intended to facilitate the implementation of provisions outlined in an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan. This financial flexibility empowers parents to actively participate in arranging the necessary support for their children. However, the Ombudsman’s report uncovers a spectrum of challenges, from administrative lapses causing delays in payments to more profound issues, such as councils being oblivious to the process.
The report illuminates instances where councils failed to recognise parental requests for funding as tantamount to a request for a personal budget. Furthermore, it underscores a widespread lack of information available to parents regarding the existence of personal budgets as a viable option. The Ombudsman asserts that councils must consider individual circumstances when evaluating requests for personal budgets, emphasising the need for a personalised approach.
One glaring concern highlighted in the report is the absence of clear explanations for decisions and a failure to provide guidance on the right to review. The Ombudsman advocates for adherence to “good administrative practice,” urging councils to elucidate their decisions and inform parents about the review process when communicating decisions on personal budgets or direct payments.
Delays in considering parental requests emerge as a recurrent issue, amplifying financial strain on parents and caregivers awaiting decisions. The Ombudsman underscores the systemic problems within the system, compounded by a lack of comprehension among those in authority. Paul Najsarek, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, contends that parents should act as equal partners with councils in determining support needs and funding, calling for urgent reforms to address the evident crisis in the system. Najsarek’s plea extends to government proposals and the need for expeditious progress in implementing pledged reforms outlined in this year’s improvement plan. Council leaders, he implores, should reflect on the practical lessons offered by the report to ensure parents have the freedom to choose how their children receive support in their respective areas.
The Ombudsman’s report can be found here: