Inclusion Development Programme (IDPs)

Jun 6, 2017 | Articles, Assembly Business, Assembly Issues | 0 comments

Plenary Tuesday 06 June 2017

15:23:10

Spoken Contribution – 15:23:10
Watch this contribution on Senedd TV | View this contribution in the Record of Proceeding document

Thanks to the Minister for bringing the debate today. I’m not on any of the committees that scrutinised this Bill, and the issues that are being raised have been raised by my colleague Michelle Brown, who’s on the education committee and who can’t be here today.

In principle, we do support the Bill. Introducing IDPs, providing it’s done properly, is a good idea. However, to ensure consistency across local authorities, will the Minister agree to the request from many stakeholders to use a standard template IDP that applies across the local authorities and is therefore portable? I would hope the Minister will take steps to ensure the person writing the IDP has the expertise required to do so, and the knowledge to bring the different service providers together to co-ordinate them.

Both local authorities and schools have a duty to prepare and maintain an IDP where they consider a child or young person has additional learning needs, but there is no default position, so local authorities and schools could end up playing ping pong with the IDP. Would the minister consider making either the local authority or the school ultimately responsible for the preparation of the IDP, to prevent any buck-passing of the kind that frustrates the public so often when it comes to dealing with council departments?

Unless the person has a disability as defined under the Equality Act 2010, or has a significantly greater difficulty in learning, they won’t be considered to have ALNs. This means that children and young people who have medical conditions that take them out of the classroom, or otherwise impact on their education, aren’t covered, and this has been a major concern voiced by constituents. So, please could the Minister clarify what provision will be made for those who have medical conditions that fall short of a disability and who don’t have a significantly greater difficulty in learning but whose medical conditions affect their learning in some other way?

I do understand that there has to be a threshold, and the definition of ‘additional learning needs’ provides that. However, what support are children and young people going to receive if they’re just beneath that threshold? What support is there going to be for children and young people who have greater difficulty in learning than the average child or young person but don’t have a significantly greater one—in other words, to those in the middle?

Llyr mentioned the apprenticeships issue. The Government says that it is as committed to vocational training as it is to academia, but it therefore seems odd that apprenticeships are not covered by the Bill, which potentially leaves out a big chunk of people with ALNs. Surely the Bill should be extended to cover these, although responsibility for the IDP should be with the local authority rather than the employer, because that would deter the creation of apprenticeships.

I am very pleased that there is a presumption in favour of children and young people with ALNs being educated in a mainstream school. This is an excellent move. Special schools should be reserved for children and young persons who can’t be educated in a mainstream school for their own interests, not used in part as a dumping ground for children or young persons whose education is thought to be a drain on resources by the mainstream schools. Stipulating that a local authority may arrange for additional learning provision to be given outside a school may be a step forward, but given the fact that exercise of this does not have to be based on whether it’s in the best interests of the child—the local authority has complete discretion—the local authority could therefore, arguably, farm out provision on the basis of cost to the detriment of the child or young person. So, how will the Minister address this potential problem?

I also welcome the duty on NHS bodies to provide medical treatment. I can understand why a fixed time frame hasn’t been stated, but ideally the Bill should state that this and other duties must be complied with and decisions made within a reasonable time to address the excessive waiting times reported by some parents of children and young people with ALNs.

Finally, onto the dispute procedures. Although the intention is that the Bill will help to avoid disputes—and clearly, avoidance is better than having disputes in the first place—disputes will nevertheless occur, yet the avenues for resolution remain cumbersome.

Now, a couple of people have mentioned the relationship of the Bill to the NHS. The education tribunal has no jurisdiction over NHS bodies—the tribunal has no power to order an NHS body to provide treatment or to consider elements of an appeal relating to the NHS—so, parents and others will have to use the separate NHS process, meaning they have to negotiate two appeal systems instead of one. How is the Minister going to ensure that the people appealing to the tribunal receive the support and advice they need so that they can ensure the tribunal hears all the relevant information? How will the Minister ensure that no element of these appeals can slip into the ether between the education and NHS appeal processes?

In summary, we do support this Bill, but we are also concerned that insufficient staff levels and funding may scupper some very good objectives contained within this Bill.