Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEN/D)

Children in care are nine times more likely to have special educational needs (SEN) than other children, according to the charity `The Who Cares? Trust`. September 2014 saw new reforms to the special educational needs (SEN) system. Children with SEN often find it more difficult within the educational environment than their peers and it can hinder their ability to learn. It is vital therefore that foster carers have an understanding of how to identify and access the support required for the children that come into their care.

Over half the children in the care system will not have an education, health and care plan (previously known as a statement of special educational needs). Their needs aim to be met through additional support such as occupational therapy. As a foster carer you will need to be confident that you can support your child with their educational needs.

What you will need to be aware of as a foster carer are:

  • Understand the types of SEN

SEN can come in many different forms, and can refer to a child with social, emotional and mental health difficulties, a child with learning difficulties, communication and interaction needs sensory and/or physical disabilities and needs.

  • Know how to identify it

Signs may vary, but SEN can be “specific as well as wide-ranging”. A child may have difficulty with one area of learning – such as letters or numbers – but show no other signs of struggling with their education. Alternatively, they might have problems in relation to children or adults, but not display other difficulties.

  • Raise your concerns

If you think the child in your care may have some form of SEN, raise concerns with professionals quickly. It’s important that it is professionally diagnosed so they can get appropriate support.

  • Know your authority’s ‘local offer’

Each local authority has to publish a ‘local offer’, which sets out support available for children and young people (0 to 25) with special needs and disabilities in the local area. Foster carers, you will be able to use the guide to find out whether there are additional support services in the area, which could benefit the child in your care.

  • Request an Education, Health and Care assessment if necessary

Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans have replaced SEN statements as the way of ensuring support for children with SEN.

You, the child (if he or she is aged between 16-25), the child’s social worker, a teacher and any other professional who thinks the child might have SEN can request an assessment.

If you and the social worker disagree over the need for an assessment, speak to the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO).

  • Plan for transitions

At 16, children can stay in school, move on to college or pursue apprenticeships. If your child has an EHC plan, they will receive support until they are 25.

However, wherever they move on to from school should be planned “well in advance”, so the child knows their options and can make an informed decision

  • Know where you can get your support from

It’s important to remember you’re not on your own. A child’s teacher and school special educational needs coordinater (SENCO) should keep you informed of what the needs of the child are.

Social workers can help you with practical things, like arranging meetings. External agencies are also available, such as child and adolescent mental health professionals, speech and language therapists and occupational therapists.

  • Rest!

Caring for a child with SEN can be stressful, it can be demanding on both your energy levels and time.“Your desire to ‘always do the right thing’ for the child may occasionally be in conflict of your own needs to relax,” don’t forget that time to relax and unwind is “vital”.

For additional information, “Supporting children with special educational needs” is available on The Who Cares? Trust website.

Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEN/D)

Guidance on duties, policies and procedures relating to Part 3 of the Children and Families Act 2014 and associated regulations as applies to England.It relates to children and young people with special educational needs (SEN) and disabled children and young people.A ‘young person’ in this context is a person over compulsory school age and under 25. Compulsory school age ends on the last Friday of June in the academic year in which they become 16.

Local authorities must fulfil their statutory duties towards children and young people with SEN or disabilities as to Part 3 of the Children and Families Act 2014 and associated regulations. The regulations associated with the Children and Families Act 2014


  • The Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014
  • The Special Educational Needs (Personal Budgets) Regulations 2014
  • The Order setting out transitional arrangements

Who must have regard to this guidance?

  • local authorities (education, social care and relevant housing and employment and other services)
  • the governing bodies of schools, including non-maintained special schools
  • the governing bodies of further education colleges and sixth form colleges
  • the proprietors of academies (including free schools, University Technical Colleges and Studio Schools)
  • the management committees of pupil referral units
  • independent schools and independent specialist providers approved under section 41 of the Children and Families Act 2014
  • all early years providers in the maintained, private, voluntary and independent sectors that are funded by the local authority
  • the National Health Service Commissioning Board
  • clinical commissioning groups (CCGs)
  • NHS Trusts
  • NHS Foundation Trusts
  • Local Health Boards
  • Youth Offending Teams and relevant youth custodial establishments
  • The First-tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability)

Changes to be implemented from September 1st 2014

The main changes from the SEN Code of Practice (2001) reflect the changes introduced by the Children and Families Act 2014. These are:

  • The Code of Practice (2014) covers the 0-25 age range and includes guidance relating to disabled children and young people as well as those with SEN
  • There is a clearer focus on the participation of children and young people and parents in decision-making at individual and strategic levels
  • There is a stronger focus on high aspirations and on improving outcomes for children and young people
  • It includes guidance on the joint planning and commissioning of services to ensure close co-operation between education, health and social care
  • It includes guidance on publishing a Local Offer of support for children and young people with SEN or disabilities
  • There is new guidance for education and training settings on taking a graduated approach to identifying and supporting pupils and students with SEN (to replace School Action and School Action Plus)
  • For children and young people with more complex needs a co-ordinated assessment process and the new 0-25 Education, Health and Care plan (EHC plan) replace statements and Learning Difficulty Assessments (LDAs)
  • There is a greater focus on support that enables those with SEN to succeed in their education and make a successful transition to adulthood
  • Information is provided on relevant duties under the Equality Act 2010
  • Information is provided on relevant provisions of the Mental Capacity Act 2005

From 1 September 2014 the majority of Part 3 of the Children and Families Act 2014, its associated regulations and this Code of Practice will be in force, subject to any transitional arrangements. Subject to any transitional arrangements made, from that date the following guidance will cease to have effect:

  • SEN Code of Practice (2001)
  • Inclusive Schooling (2001)
  • Section 139A Learning Difficulty Assessments Statutory Guidance (2013) Transitional arrangements

From 1 September 2014 transitional arrangements will be in place to support the change over from the current system to the new system in a phased and ordered way. These arrangements, which are set out in a statutory transitional order and accompanied by transitional guidance, will facilitate the transfer of those with statements to EHC plans. They ensure that during the transition period local authorities must continue to comply with elements of the Education Act 1996 in relation to children with statements, and the Learning and Skills Act 2000 in relation to young people who have had Learning Difficulty Assessments and remain in education or training (provided they still have learning difficulties).

The legal test of when a child or young person requires an EHC plan remains the same as that for a statement under the Education Act 1996. Therefore, it is expected that all those who have a statement and who would have continued to have one under the current system, will be transferred to an EHC plan–no-one should lose their statement and not have it replaced with an EHC plan simply because the system is changing. Similarly, local authorities have undertaken LDAs for young people either because they had a statement at school or because, in the opinion of the local authority, they are likely to need additional support as part of their further education or training and would benefit from a LDA to identify their learning needs and the provision required to meet those needs. Therefore, the expectation is that young people who are currently receiving support as a result of a LDA and remain in further education or training during the transition period, who request and need an EHC plan, will be issued with one.

A child or young person has SEN if they have a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for him or her. A child of compulsory school age or a young person has a learning difficulty or disability if he or she:

  • has a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age,


  • has a disability which prevents or hinders him or her from making use of facilities of a kind generally provided for others of the same age in mainstream schools or mainstream post -16 institutions

For children aged two or more, special educational provision is educational or training provision that is additional to or different from that made generally for other children or young people of the same age by main stream schools, maintained nursery schools, mainstream post-16 institutions or by relevant early years providers. For a child under two years of age, special educational provision means educational provision of any kind.

A child under compulsory school age has special educational needs if he or she is likely to fall within the definition above when they reach compulsory school age or would do so if special educational provision was not made for them (Section 20 Children and Families Act 2014).

Post -16 institutions often use the term learning difficulties and disabilities (LDD). The term SEN is used in this Code across the 0-25 age range but includes LDD.

SEN/D whats changing?

DfE Guide for Parents and Carers

Easy read guide for children and young people

Disabled children and young people

Many children and young people who have SEN may have a disability under the Equality Act 2010–that is‘…a physical or mental impairment which has a long-term and substantial adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities’.

This definition provides a relatively low threshold and includes more children than many realise: ‘long-term’ is defined as ‘a year or more’ and ‘substantial’ is defined as ‘more than minor or trivial’. This definition includes sensory impairments such as those affecting sight or hearing, and long-term health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, and cancer.

Children and young people with such conditions do not necessarily have SEN, but there is a significant overlap between disabled children and young people and those with SEN. Where a disabled child or young person requires special educational provision they will also be covered by the SEN definition.

The Equality Act 2010 sets out the legal obligations that schools, early years providers, post-16 institutions, local authorities and others have towards disabled children and young people:

  • They must not directly or indirectly discriminate against, harass or victimise disabled children and young people
  • They must make reasonable adjustments, including the provision of auxiliary aids and services, to ensure that disabled children and young people are not at a substantial disadvantage compared with their peers. This duty is anticipatory – it requires thought to be given in advance to what disabled children and young people might require and what adjustments might need to be made to prevent that disadvantage
  • Public bodies, including further education institutions, local authorities, maintained schools, maintained nursery schools, academies and free schools are covered by the public sector equality duty and when carrying out their functions must have regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, promote equality of opportunity and foster good relations between disabled and non-disabled children and young people. They must publish information to demonstrate their compliance with this general duty and must prepare and publish objectives to achieve the core aims of the general duty. Objectives must be specific and measurable.

The duties cover discrimination in the provision of services and the provision of education, including admissions and exclusions. All providers must make reasonable adjustments to procedures, criteria and practices and by the provision of auxiliary aids and services. Most providers must also make reasonable adjustments by making physical alterations. Schools and local authority education functions are not covered by this last duty, but they must publish accessibility plans (and local authorities, accessibility strategies) setting out how they plan to increase access for disabled pupils to the curriculum, the physical environment and to information.

School governing bodies and proprietors must also publish information about the arrangements for the admission of disabled children, the steps taken to prevent disabled children being treated less favourably than others, the facilities provided to assist access of disabled children, and their accessibility plans.

Where a child or young person is covered by SEN and disability legislation, reasonable adjustments and access arrangements should be considered as part of SEN planning and review. Where school governors are publishing information about their arrangements for disabled children and young people, this should be brought together with the information required under the Children and Families Act 2014.

Special Educational Needs and Disability Support

Looked after children

Around 70% of looked after children have some form of SEN, and it is likely that a significant proportion of them will have an Education Health and Care (EHC) plan. All maintained schools and academies and free schools must appoint a Designated Teacher for looked after children. Where that role is carried out by a person other than the SEN Co-ordinator (SENCO), Designated Teachers should work closely with the SENCO to ensure that the implications of a child being both looked after and having SEN are fully understood by relevant school staff.

Local authorities must promote the educational achievement of the children they look after, regardless of where they are placed. The Children and Families Act 2014 requires every local authority to appoint an officer who is an employee of that or another authority to discharge that duty. This officer, often known as a Virtual School Head (VSH) will lead a virtual school team, which tracks the progress of children looked after by the authority as if they attended a single school. Special Educational Needs and Disabilities departments should work closely with the VSH as well as social workers to ensure that local authorities have effective and joined-up processes for meeting the SEN of looked after children.

This means that a considerable amount of planning will be done around the care, health and education needs of looked after children. They will have a Care Plan, which sets out how the local authority will meet the care needs of the child, addressing all important dimensions of a child’s developmental needs. These include health, education, emotional and behavioural development, identity, family and social relationships, social presentation and self-care skills. The Care Plan will specifically include a Personal Education Plan (PEP) and a Health Plan (both are a statutory requirement) which will particularly assess and set out the child’s education and health needs. It may be through making these assessments that a child’s SEN will be identified.

Where a looked after child is being assessed for SEN it is vital to take account of information set out in the Care Plan.

SEN professionals must work closely with other relevant professionals involved in the child’s life as a consequence of his/her being looked after. These include the social worker, Designated Doctor or Nurse, Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO), VSH and Designated Teacher in school. This will ensure that the child’s EHC plan works in harmony with his/her Care Plan and adds to, but does not duplicate, information about how education, health and care needs will be met. It is essential to involve the child, their carers and, where appropriate, their parents in the planning process.

When referencing information contained within the Care Plan only information relevant to meeting the child’s SEN should be included in the EHC plan. If in any doubt SEN professionals should discuss this with the social worker and, where appropriate, the child and their carers.

Out of area education

A significant proportion of looked after children attend schools in a different local authority area to the local authority that looks after them. Local authorities who place looked after children in another authority need to be aware of that authority’s Local Offer if the child has SEN. Where an assessment for an EHC plan has been triggered, the authority that carries out the assessment is determined by section 24 of the Children and Families Act 2014. This means that the assessment must be carried out by the authority where the child lives (i.e. is ordinarily resident), which may not be the same as the authority that looks after the child. If a disagreement arises, the authority that looks after the child, will act as the ‘corporate parent’ in any disagreement resolution.

It is the looked after child’s social worker (in close consultation with the VSH in the authority that looks after the child) that will ultimately make any educational decision on the child’s behalf. However, the day-to-day responsibility for taking these decisions should be delegated to the carer who will advocate for the looked after child and make appeals to the First-tier Tribunal (SEN and Disability) as necessary.

For a child in a stable, long-term foster placement it may well be appropriate for the carer to take on the responsibility of managing a Personal Budget but this will need careful case-by-case consideration.

EHC review

The annual review of the EHC plan should coincide with the Care Plan reviews. This could be done as part of the review of a child’s PEP which feeds into the review of the wider Care Plan. Social workers and SEN teams will need to work closely together to ensure that transitions from being looked after to returning home are managed effectively, to ensure continuing provision.

EHC Education Health Plan

Care leavers

Some children will cease to be looked after at 16 or 17 and others will continue to be looked after until their 18th birthday. (Some care leavers will remain living with their former foster carers past their 18th birthday in ‘Staying Put’ arrangements, but they are no longer looked after).

Local authorities continue to have responsibilities to provide a Personal Adviser and to prepare a Pathway Plan. The Personal Adviser is there to ensure that care leavers are provided with the right kind of personal support, for example by signposting them to services and providing advice. The Pathway Plan plots transition from care to adulthood for care leavers up to the age of 25 if they remain in education and/or training or are not in employment, education or training and plan to return to education and/or training. In reviewing their arrangements for EHC needs assessment and EHC plan development local authorities should ensure good advanced planning involving the young person and Personal Adviser.

 Post 16 Support

SEN and social care needs, including children in need

Children’s social care

There is a statutory duty, under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989, for local authorities to safeguard and promote the welfare of ‘children in need’ in their area, including disabled children, by providing appropriate services to them.

Services for disabled children provided under Section 17 will typically include short breaks for parent carers, equipment or adaptations to the home, and support for parents from social workers, for example in support of parenting capacity. If a local authority determines that a disabled child needs support under Section 17, it must consider whether such support is of the type outlined in Section 2 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act (CSDPA) 1970. Where it is, the local authority must provide that support.

Where an EHC plan is being prepared for a disabled child or young person under the age of 18, any services to be provided under Section 2 of the CSDPA must be included in section H1 of the EHC plan. All other social care services, including services provided under section 17 of the Children Act but not under section 2 of the CSDPA must be included in Section H2 of the EHC plan.

Following acceptance of a referral by the local authority children’s social care service, a social worker should lead a multi-agency assessment under section 17 of the Children Act 1989. Local authorities have a duty to ascertain the child’s wishes and feelings and take account of them when planning the provision of services.

The purposes of social care assessments are:

  • to gather important information about a child and family
  • to analyse their needs and/or the nature and level of any risk or harm being suffered by a child
  • to decide whether the child is a child in need (section 17 of the Children Act1989) and/or is suffering significant harm (section 47 of the Children Act1989),


  • to provide support to address those needs to improve the child’s outcomes

A good social care assessment supports professionals to understand whether a child has needs relating to their care or a disability and/or is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm.

Working Together to Safeguard Children 2013 sets out the process for managing individual cases which are referred to and accepted by children’s social care. All assessments should be child centred, focused on outcomes, transparent, timely and proportionate to the needs of each child. The maximum timeframe for a social care assessment to conclude that a decision can be taken on next steps is 45 working days from the point of referral.

Local authorities with their partners should develop and publish local protocols for assessment leading to an EHC plan. Where there is an EHC needs assessment, it should be an holistic assessment of the child or young person’s education, health and social care needs. For all children who have social care plans the social worker should co-ordinate any outward facing plan with other professionals. Where there are specific child protection concerns resulting in action under section 47 of the Children Act, careful consideration should be given to how closely the assessment processes across education, health and care can be integrated, in order to ensure that the needs of vulnerable children are put first.

EHC plan reviews should be synchronised with social care plan reviews, and must always meet the needs of the individual child.

Power to continue children’s social care services to those aged 18 to 25

Where a local authority has been providing children’s social care services to a young person under the age of 18, and they have an EHC plan in place, local authorities can continue to provide these services on the same basis after the age of 18. The local authority retains discretion over how long it chooses to provide these services, so long as an EHC plan remains in place. Where the young person no longer has an EHC plan, the local authority no longer has the power to extend the provision of these services to young people over 18.

This will enable local authorities to agree with young people when the most appropriate time for transition to adult services will be, avoiding key pressure points such as exams or a move from school to college. Poorly timed and planned transition to adult services will have a detrimental effect on achievement of outcomes and may result in young people requiring far longer to complete their education or leaving education altogether.

Children and young people educated out of area

Where a child or young person being educated out of the local authority’s area is brought to the local authority’s attention as potentially having SEN, the home local authority (where the child normally lives) should decide whether to assess the child or young person and decide whether an EHC plan is required.

Where a child or young person being educated out of area has an EHC plan, the home local authority must ensure that the special educational provision set out in the plan is being made. They must review the EHC plan annually. Local authorities can make reciprocal arrangements to carry out these duties on each other’s behalf.

If the child or young person is placed by a local authority at an independent special school, non-maintained special school or independent specialist provider, the local authority must pay the appropriate costs.

If it is a residential placement, so far as reasonably practicable, those placing the child or young person should try to secure a placement that is near to the child’s home. However, in making this decision they should ensure they have full regard for the views, wishes and feelings of the child or young person and their families about the placement. Where the local authority names a residential provision at some distance from the family’s home the local authority must provide reasonable transport or travel assistance.

Children and young people with SEN educated at home

Under section 7 of the Education Act 1996 parents have the right to educate children, including children with SEN, at home. Home education must be suitable to the child’s age, ability, aptitude and SEN. Local authorities should work in partnership with, and support, parents to ensure that the SEN of these children are met where the local authority already knows the children have SEN or the parents have drawn the children’s special needs to the authority’s attention. Local authorities do not have a duty under section 22 of the Children and Families Act 2014 to assess every home educated child to see whether or not they have SEN. The high needs block of the Dedicated Schools Grant is intended to fund provision for all relevant children and young people in the authority’s area, including home educated children. Local authorities should fund the SEN needs of home educated children where it is appropriate to do so.

Where this education is arranged elsewhere than at a school it is commonly referred to as alternative provision. Alternative provision includes pupil referral units, alternative provision academies and alternative provision free schools. Local authorities must have regard to statutory guidance on alternative provision and on the education of children unable to attend school because of health needs. This guidance specifies that the education provided should be on par with mainstream schools.

In line with local authorities’ duty to arrange suitable education as set out above, children and young people who are in hospital or placed in other forms of alternative provision because of their health needs should have access to education that is on a par with that of mainstream provision, including appropriate support to meet the needs of those with SEN.

The education they receive should be good quality and prevent them from slipping behind their peers. It should involve suitably qualified staff who can help pupils progress and enable them to successfully reintegrate back into school as soon as possible.

When a child or young person with an EHC plan is admitted to hospital, the local authority that maintains the plan should be informed so that they can ensure the provision set out in the plan continues to be provided. If necessary, the EHC plan may be reviewed and amended to ensure it remains appropriate and the child’s SEN continue to be met.

Where children or young people with health needs are returning to mainstream education then the local authority should work with them, their family, the current education provider and the new school or post -16 provider to produce a reintegration plan. This will help ensure that their educational, health and social care needs continue to be met. Where relevant, a reintegration plan should be linked to a child or young person’s EHC plan or individual healthcare plan.

It is important that medical commissioners and local authorities work together to minimise the disruption to children and young people’s education. In order for local authorities to meet their duties, medical commissioners should notify them as soon as possible about any need to arrange education, ideally in advance of the hospital placement. For example, where a child of compulsory school age is normally resident in a local authority but is receiving medical treatment elsewhere, it is still the duty of the ‘home’ local authority to arrange suitable education if it would not otherwise be received.

In certain circumstances, local authorities’ duties may require them to commission independent educational provision. Such providers would need to be funded directly by the home local authority.

A coalition of children’s charities have launched SENDirect, a website which helps families of children with special educational needs or disabilities to find the activities and support that suit their interests, preferences, lifestyle and budgets easily. The website allows parents and professions to:

·         See what choices are available to them, how much things cost and what other people think of them

·         Get information about their legal rights

·         Look at guidance on how to tell if an activity or service might be worth trying for their child

·         Speak directly to activity providers about adapting services to suit their exact needs

·         Help create suitable new services where currently there are none

·         Shape and buy activities, support and equipment easily online

Flow charts

The Special Needs Jungle have produced the following flow charts in conjunction with the Department for Education to help parents and carers understand the process and what happens next for a child that requires support:

SEN Support in Schools    SNJ-DFE-SEN-SUPPORT-FLOW-CHART-1.1

Requesting an Education, Health, Care  assessment        SNJ-DfE-FLOW-CHART2.1-EHCP-request-

Conducting an Education, Health, Care assessment        SNJ-DfE-FLOW-CHART3-EHCP-assess

If you disagree with the decision   SNJ-DfE-FLOW-CHART4.1-EHCP-disagree

Glossary of Terms Regarding SEN/D

Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG): group of professionals that work together to commission services, ensuring there is sufficient capacity contracted to deliver necessary services to people.

Independent supporter: person recruited by a voluntary or community sector organisation to help families going through an EHC needs assessment and the process of developing an EHC plan. This person is independent of the local authority and will receive training, including legal training, to enable them to provide this support.

Keyworker: person providing single point of contact to young people and parents/carers to ensure the support received is co-ordinated.

Mainstream school: primary or secondary school providing education for all children.

Parent Carer Forum:  representative local group of parents and carers of disabled children who work with local authorities, education, health and other providers to make sure the services they plan and deliver meet the needs of disabled children and families.

Reasonable adjustments: changes schools and other settings are required to make; for example creating ramps for children to enter classrooms or provision of extra support and aids such as specialist teachers or equipment.

Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO): a qualified teacher in a school or nursery who has responsibility for co-ordinating the special educational needs provision.

Statutory Guidance: local authorities and other local bodies have a legal duty to follow the guidance.

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