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Natspec Manifesto

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The Association of National Special Colleges

Natspec represents over 70 member colleges and the interests of more than 3,000 students with complex learning difficulties or disabilities. We believe they have a right to the specialism and expertise which will enable them to achieve their long term aspirations and become valued and active members of society.

We support the intentions of the Children and Families Act but have concerns that a poorly designed funding system and excessive bureaucracy are preventing young people from attending the college that best meets their learning and support needs.
The current system is costly for providers and local authorities. Reducing bureaucracy and associated costs would allow everyone to re-focus on meeting aspirations and supporting young people to achieve their very best.

Funding

The current high needs funding system is complex, overly bureaucratic and does not work effectively for post-16 learners or providers. It places all the power in
the hands of local authorities, who assess, plan, commission and fund places, and none in the hands of young people, who are supposedly at the centre of the system but are in fact subject to a postcode lottery.

We therefore seek:

• A centrally managed, equitable and timely funding system that is designed to ensure that every student is funded to be at the college of their choice.

• A funding system that is driven by, and delivers the intentions of the Children and Families Act, rather than one which impedes it.

Children & Families Act

There is still a long way to go before this Act achieves its ambitions to reform the system and place young people and their families at its heart. Preparation for implementation has been uneven, in particular around comprehensive and accessible Local Offers and personalised Education, Health and Care plans.

We therefore seek:

• Effective monitoring of the implementation of the Children and Families Act to ensure that it delivers a meaningful choice of education for every young person, and that:

     - swift action is taken to rectify concerns and non-compliance.

     - students’ views and wishes are at the centre of assessment & planning.

     - accurate information about all providers is included in the Local Offer.

     - timely decisions are made about placements and funding.

Information Advice & Guidance

Young people with learning difficulties or disabilities, like their peers, are suffering from the paucity of high quality advice and guidance. This follows the loss of the Connexions service and with it much expertise, knowledge and specialist skills.

We therefore seek:

• Face to face, well informed and impartial advice, guidance and support for every student with learning difficulties or disabilities.

• Comprehensive information in Local Offers which lets users know not only what is available, but guides them through the application process.

• Trained and well informed Independent Supporters who can confidently support young people through the process of securing an EHC plan.

Employment & Employer Engagement

Employment rates for young people and adults with learning difficulties or disabilities remain shockingly low; for example, fewer than 10% of those with a learning difficulty are in work. Yet evidence shows that they are excellent
employees; they stay in jobs for longer, take less sick-leave than other employees and have better attendance rates

We therefore seek:

• Cross departmental promotion of the benefits of employing disabled people.

• Access to Work to be extended to students on work experience.

Value for Money

The 2011 NAO report ‘Oversight of special education for young people aged 16–

25’ looked at the benefits of education for students with learning difficulties or disabilities.

It noted that ‘Our model confirms that achieving greater independence and employment for people with disabilities would be likely to bring downstream
benefits. We estimated the average lifetime (16–64) cost of supporting a person with a moderate learning disability as £2–3 million at today’s prices’.

Unfortunately, local authorities not only look for the cheapest option, but think in the short term. Until there is a long term approach to funding, and a genuine sharing of budgets across agencies, the aspirations of young people with learning difficulties or disabilities will not be met.

We therefore seek:

• A new NAO study on value for money issues across all types of provider for students with high needs, to be undertaken in autumn 2017 after two years practice of the Children and Families Act, with a focus on achievement of outcomes and destinations.