Family Fund backs new online service to give choice and control to families with disabled children

A new online service, set to revolutionise the way families with disabled children access health, education and social care services in their local authorities, will be unveiled on 21st January at the Bett Education Summit in London’s Excel Centre.

SENDirect has been developed by nine leading disability charities (the SEND Consortium) in direct response to families who say finding vital local services for their child with special educational needs or a disability (SEND) is over-complicated, confusing and choice is severely limited.

The need for SENDirect and its new approach to the way families find and buy the local services they need is backed by a survey of over 300 families, which revealed that:

  • The vast majority said they had few or no choices when it came to seeking either social (81%), education (75%) or health services (64%), or for their disabled child
  • Three quarters of families (75%) said it was either quite or very difficult to find information about what services are available in their area
  • Around a third (32%) said they rarely or never found the services they needed.

SENDirect addresses these issues by putting families firmly in control for the first time, enabling them to search for, buy and review existing services and to find the information they need to make the right decision for their child. At the same time SENDirect will help providers promote the services they offer while the invaluable information that SENDirect gathers about what families in individual areas want and need, will help local authorities shape and improve services.

An easier way for families to find vital support for their child is more important than ever. The Children and Families Act changed the way services for children with SEND are commissioned and sold and introduced personal budgets – money allocated by local authorities to carers so they can arrange and pay for essential support services.

Cheryl Ward, Chief Executive of Family Fund, has welcomed the scheme, saying: “At Family Fund, our vision is that families with disabled and seriously ill children have the same choices, quality of life, opportunities and aspirations as other families. Giving families control over what services they choose for their child can help achieve that, and we are proud to be part of the a project like SENDirect, which aims to make it easy for families to access the right services for them.”

Elizabeth Archer, Project Director for SENDirect, says: “Too many parents we speak to find that currently, the process of finding and buying these services is extremely frustrating. In addition many remain unaware of personal budgets or don’t know how to use them effectively. “

“We’ve worked with thousands of families, dozens of service providers and 10 local authorities to develop SENDirect. We are confident that our new online service will help families, service providers and local authorities across the country work together in a much more effective way."

Annie Bannister from Leicestershire cares for her 15 year old son Thomas who has a rare chromosomal condition which presents as autism, complex learning difficulties and some physical disabilities. She says: “Currently, finding services for your child means you almost have to know exactly what's available before you even start looking. I’ve had 15 years’ experience of looking for and finding services for Thomas but it must be a deeply frustrating process for parents of younger children who want to find out what’s available for their child locally.

“The feedback facility of the SENDirect online service is something I will find enormously helpful. It will give me and other parents the unique opportunity to let service providers know directly if a service they are providing is not quite as described. At the same time and for the first time ever I will be able to make informed decisions about whether a service will be suitable for Thomas or not by reading other peoples feedback.”

“Thomas goes to a special school so we are alerted to local services through flyers and newsletters via his school. However it’s important to remember that only a small proportion of disabled children will go to special school. Most will be in mainstream school and as a result parents never hear about what’s available in this way. That’s why SENDirect is such a brilliant concept – one place where parents can be sure they’ll find everything that’s available in their area.”

To find out more about how SENDirect will make life easier for families with children who have a disability or special educational needs visit www.sendirect.org.uk

  - ENDS -

Notes to Editors

  1. To find out more about how SENDirect will make life easier for families with children who have a disability or special educational needs visit www.sendirect.org.uk
  2. The SEND Consortium is made up of the following leading charities: Ambitious about Autism; Contact a Family; Dyslexia Action; Family Fund; ICAN; KIDS; Mencap; National Autistic Society and Scope.
  3. SENDirect has been funded by the Department of Health and the Department for Education and 10 local authorities have worked with the SEND Consortium to pilot the new online service. The local authorities are: Bexley, Cornwall, Coventry; Solihull; Oldham; Gateshead; Leicestershire; Essex; Herefordshire and Telford & Wrekin.
    1. The Family Fund is the country’s largest grant-giving charity and has over forty years of helping families with disabled children. It helps ease the additional pressures faced by low-income families raising a disabled child by giving them grants for a wide range of goods and services, including washing machines, dryers, fridges, clothing, bedding, sensory toys, computers, much- needed family breaks and more. Across the UK last year, the Fund supported 68,551 families with £33 million in grants. www.familyfund.org.uk

Laura Hyde, Marketing and Communications Assistant

Family Fund, 4 Alpha Court Monks Cross Drive, Huntington, York, YO32 9WN

01904 550013 comms@familyfund.org.uk

The Family Fund is the country’s largest grant-giving charity and has over forty years of helping families with disabled children. It helps ease the additional pressures faced by low-income families raising a disabled child by giving them grants for a wide range of goods and services, including washing machines, dryers, fridges, clothing, bedding, sensory toys, computers, much- needed family breaks and more. Across the UK last year, the Fund supported 66,937 families with £33 million in grants.

About Us

The Family Fund is one of the UK’s largest grant-giving charities which, for forty years, have helped families raising disabled or seriously ill children or young people. It helps ease the additional pressures faced by low-income families raising a disabled child by giving them grants for a wide range of goods and services, including washing machines, dryers, fridges, clothing, bedding, sensory toys, computers, much-needed family breaks and more, but also give grants for items to aide a better night’s sleep such as beds, bedding, sleep monitors and blackout blinds. Across the UK last year, the Fund supported 64,020 families with £33 million in funding, 5,000 more than the previous year. Family Fund receives grants from private donors as well as each of the four UK governments.

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