Most weeks of the year, I hold an advice surgery so that people can discuss their worries and problems with me face-to-face. Each week, I help people to tackle a wide range of problems. Resolving problems is one of the most satisfying parts of my job. These discussions as well as phone calls, letters and e:mails are immensely valuable to my work in Parliament. I am informed by the real experiences of the people I represent. Trying to ensure good policy developed by government actually delivers good services in Cornwall is a key part of my job.
Over the last year or so, I have met with parents or carers of children and young people with disabilities. I have also met with professionals dedicated to helping them. I have listened to parents having to battle to get the support their child needs; support needed not joining up education, health and care support; children falling between the gaps in services or having to undergo multiple assessments; multiple layers of paperwork and bureaucracy adding delays to getting support, therapy and vital equipment; a confusing and adversarial assessment process, with parents’ confidence in the system undermined by the perceived conflict of interest where the local authority must provide SEN support (special educational need) as well as assess children’s needs. I have also listened to the frustrations of teachers and other professionals about the lack of co-ordination of services.
Earlier this year, the Government unveiled proposals which would mean the biggest programme of reform in the education and health support for children with special educational needs (SEN) and disabilities in 30 years. While the proposals received a warm welcome from many different groups of people, I am very much aware of the potential gap between the good intentions of government in London and what is actually experienced by people in Cornwall.
So, I was very pleased that Cornwall Council, the Council of the Isles of Scilly and Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly Primary Care Trust (the organisation that purchases NHS services for us) formed a partnership and applied to be a pathfinder to test the delivery of the reforms. Last week, I was delighted to learn that they have been chosen by the Government to help test proposed changes to services provided for disabled children and those with special educational needs. Each pathfinder will receive up to £150,000 per local authority per year.
Cornwall Council is quite right when it stated: “This gives us the chance to develop stronger partnerships with parents and disabled children and young people to move towards greater control and flexibility of the services they receive. Through personalisation and joint planning the journey from adolescence to adult hood for young disabled people will be much better and will mean health education and care working even more closely.
“Our new Health and Well Being Board will have a key role to play in making sure that the pathfinder makes the most of the health reforms that are on the way”.