(L- R) Cllr Les Wicks, Andre Imich, Christine Humprey, Jane Marriott, Gayna Simmonds, Rose Collinson and Helen Wheatley

Medway has been chosen as one of 20 areas nationally to help shape the future of national policy for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

Together with six other authorities in the south east, that form a partnership called the SE7 (South East 7), Medway has been named as a ‘Pathfinder’ area, that will trial new services set out in a government Green Paper on special educational needs and disability policy.

The Green Paper, published last year, outlines proposals for the biggest programme of reform in education, health and social care of children with special educational needs, for the past 30 years.

The paper sets out a range of ideas to help families and children with special educational needs and disabilities, with the aim of ensuring families are at the centre of the services that affect them.

These include the introduction of one single education, health and care plan for children that will be with them from birth to 25 years and reducing the number of different assessments children have.

In Medway, the focus will be on how improvements can be made for children with special needs and disabilities at the Early Years stage (0 to five years) and Post 14 years old.

Representatives from the Department for Education, Department of Health and the Council for Disabled Children met with parents as well as professionals from Medway education, health and social care agencies at a special event last week to discuss the area’s plans for the trial, which ends in March 2013 and will involve around 20 volunteer families in total.

Medway Council’s Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services, Cllr Les Wicks, said: “We want every parent and child’s voice to be listened to and to put their needs at the centre of everything we do.

“As a pathfinder area, Medway will be leading improvements in the way we support children with special needs and disabilities and their families. A more joined up approach between education, health and social care services has benefits for all.”

Keith Clear, Vice Chairman for the Medway Parents and Carers Forum, said: “The Pathfinder is the first step towards families experiencing a new way of working with professionals from different services.

“We and other parents have told the government that the existing system was too difficult and often disjointed. We are now pleased that local families will have the chance to trial what works best for them.”

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