What are the SEND reforms?

The Special Educational Needs and Disability reforms (SEND reforms) mean that local health services (clinical commissioning groups) and local authorities must work together to integrate services across the 0-25 age range. The new system is about offering help at the earliest possible point, with children and young people with SEN and their parents or carers fully involved in decisions about the support they need. The reforms are set out in the Children and Families Act 2014, and the new SEND Code of Practice (0-25 years).

Key principles in the new legislation

As well as the principle of full involvement of young people and parents or carers, the Children and Families Act places stress on:

Outcomes: improving progress for children and young people with SEND

Integration: The Act requires a joint approach across all agencies:


  • local authorities and health commissioning groups must commission services jointly for children and young people with SEND and publicise these services as the “local offer” ;
  • education, health and social care will be required to co-operate at a local level to meet children and young people’s needs ;
  • This is intended to ensure that services are joined up and that parents and young people are clear what support is available locally.

Changes in assessment and planning


Early Years

The majority of very young children with SEN or disabilities will continue to have their needs met within mainstream settings. Early Years Action and Early Years Action Plus will be replaced by SEN Support. This will be a graduated approach to identifying and meeting special educational needs following the guidelines in what is called the Early Years Foundation Stage or EYFS. This includes involving parents in identifying needs, deciding outcomes, planning provision and seeking expertise at whatever point it is needed.

Health services must inform the parent and the local authority if they identify a child under compulsory school age as having SEN or disability (e.g. through the neo-natal screening programmes or the Healthy Child Programme two year old check).

Early Years providers must work together with parents/ carers to agree ambitious outcomes for their children. They must set clear progress targets and set down clearly how resources will be used in meeting the targets.

Education health and care plans

Education health and care plans are intended for those with more complex needs. All children develop at their own pace. Where a child has a complicated and long term need which covers education, health and care an EHC Plan may be appropriate. These new plans replace the old Statements of Special Needs. The EHC Plan’s assessment and planning process is much more joined up, outcomes focused and carried out in partnership with parents and carers. The EHC Plan must be finalised within a maximum of 20 weeks.

The basic idea is that an education, health and care assessment must be done when the special educational provision required to meet the child’s needs cannot reasonably be provided from the resources normally available to the early education provider or school.

Families of children with an education health and care plan must be offered a personal budget.

Statements will be transferred over to EHC Plans from September 2014, usually during an annual review or at a key transition point such as preparing to go into reception class or moving from primary to secondary education.


Local offer

From September 2014 every local authority is required to have a “local offer” which informs parents, carers and young people with SEN or disabilities what education, health, care and other services such as transport and leisure are available in their local area.

This includes childcare provision which is suitable for disabled children and those with SEN.

It will also set out what information services are available locally, how parents and young people can request an EHC plan assessment and how any disagreements can be resolved.

The Local Offer should also cover the support available from universal services such as GPs, targeted services for those who need additional short term support and specialist services for those needing specialized, longer term support.

The local offer must contain provision which is appropriate right across the 0-25 year old age range.

The local authority must involve parents, young people and education providers in the local offer. It must also publicly consult on the local offer, publish the results of that consultation and state what they have done as a result of the feedback.