Good morning, sincerely, I hope it is…
For the second time this year, the wonderful Jayne McCubbin and BBC Breakfast have been raising attention on SEND and in particular, the delays in the transition from SSEN (Statements of SEN) to EHCPs (Education Health and Care Plans). If you click on the SEND link above, you will see thousands of testimonies on Twitter of parent’s, carers, and advocates, talking about the old process, the delays, the poor plans, the poor transitions etc.
As I’ve mentioned in my previous blog (here) I believe one of the most critical factors in obtaining a competent and lawful plan, is the quality of reports, the relevancy of reports, which inform the plan.
So what did I do?
Off the back of the first week of #BBCSEND, I contacted both the RCSLT (Speech and Language professional body) and the HCPC (Health Care Professionals Council) which is the regulatory body for the vast majority of specialists who inform, Health, SEN and Social Care elements of plans about standards and requirements under the law which governs that required for a plan, the entire purpose why their professionals are commissioned.
Here is what I asked;
I am a blogger who focusses on Autism, Special Educational Needs and the Law, my site is here www.asddadadvocate.com
My query to you today is this.
Sections 20 & 21 of the Children and Families Act 2014 govern the identification of SEN and Provision to meet that under the duties of the act by a Local Authority, commissioning services from members under your governance.
Regulation 6 and 8, Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Regulations 2014 show under Reg 6 the scope of reports in terms of professionals under your governance, and duties to comply with those requests within 6 weeks of commission.
Whilst content and suitability of an EHCP for section B (SEN) and F (Provision) can be challenged to Tribunal by Young Persons, Parents and Carers etc, the suitability of content provided is either a contractual obligation between the Principal (The Local Authority carrying out the investigation) and the Contractor (your registrant who has been commissioned to inform any possible requirements under their expertise under Sections B & F).
The application of C&F Act 2014 and SEND Regs 2014 law shows that the description of SEN & provision must (legal duty) be specific as applied in;
R V THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR EDUCATION AND SCIENCE, EX PARTE E  1 FLR 377 CA
L V CLARKE AND SOMERSET COUNTY COUNCIL (1997)  ELR 129
R V LANCASHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL EX PARTE M  2 FLR 279
LONDON BOROUGH OF BROMLEY V SENDIST AND OTHERS, QBD AND CA  EWCA CIV 3038
and most recently
JD v South Tyneside Council (SEN)  UKUT 0009 (AAC)
and that reports must not be delayed
I am unable to find any guidance:
Or instances where for example, Speech and Language Therapists, have been sanctioned by yourselves for non-adherence to law, unlawful acts.
Although only one of the professions, I have chosen Speech and Language Therapists as their professional bodies’ guidance (updated in 2016), which is freely available, clearly has a good grasp of the law (although makes no reference to stare decisis) and gives clear guidance on good and lawful practice.
However, the regulator, yourselves, appear to neither sanction nor give guidance on the same for your members. I find this particularly of concern, given that you state you do not punish, but merely protect the public.
It will be my assertion in my new article, that protection of the public, should and does include young persons under the duty to educate, the duty to care for, the duty to make adequate provision for and crucially, the duty to inform those requirements.
I have evidence personally of a report by a member which falls woefully short of the RCSLT guidance, yet there is no way to know whether this is something that the regulatory body, yourselves would take action for either an individual to not repeat this malfeasance, nor to give guidance to your members on their duties under the law, which gained Royal Assent on 13th March 2014.
I would like to include your response, a link to guidance or policy on how members should ensure they follow the law and good practice (as the RCSLT do) and conversely, the possible ramifications and actions they may face for unlawful practice in the exercise of these functions.
ASD Dad Advocate
So what happened next?
Eventually, I got a reply…
Here it is;
Thank you for your email, and apologies for the delay in getting back to you.
In relation to your concerns about professionals’ adherence to the law, our Standards of conduct, performance and ethics apply to all of our registrants, and state that they ‘must keep up to date with and follow the law, our guidance and other requirements relevant to [their] practice’ (Standard 3.4).
Our standards of proficiency are specific to each of the professions we regulate, and the standards of proficiency for speech and language therapists outline that registrants must ‘be able to practise within the legal and ethical boundaries of their profession’ (Standard 2). Furthermore, they must ‘know about current legislation applicable to the work of their profession’ (Standard 2.5).
We don’t provide guidance covering all aspects of our registrants’ scope of practice but, as can be seen above, we expect them to follow current legislation, as well as local policies and guidance. Professional bodies provide more detailed guidance to professionals, so I recommend that you get in touch with the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists – you can find their contact details here.
In relation to our fitness to practise process, it is part of the HCPC’s role to deal with concerns about registrants. Concerns are raised from a variety of sources, such as from employers, members of the public, or by registrants themselves. If a concern meets our ‘standard of acceptance‘, it will be investigated to see if there is a case to answer about whether that registrant is fit to practise their profession. When there is a case to answer, the registrant’s case will be heard by a committee, at which the registrant and any witnesses are able to give evidence.
Whether a registrant has failed to maintain specific standards will inform the decision-making about whether their fitness to practise is impaired. Where there is impairment, a committee may then decide to impose a range of sanctions on the registrant, for example, by issuing them with a caution, placing conditions on their practice, or suspending or striking them off our Register.
I hope that helps.
Media and PR Officer
The Health and Care Professions Council
So what does this mean to me?
Firstly, whether you are a parent, carer, young person, advocate, or professional, you can see from my request the standards which are required citing the relevant law about reports and specificity, you can also see the links to the professional bodies guidance to their members on expectations and requirements under those standards.
The duty is clearly laid out by HCPC to follow the law and guidance, this is a requirement of fitness to practise and if a professional falls short, they rely upon professionals observing the lapse, or parents/carers/YPs/advocates/contractors who rely upon these standards of professionalism and quality to formally make a complaint to the HCPC and or professional body.
For professionals reading this, I would suggest, regardless of your actual profession and or body, you take a look at the RCSLT guidance, not as it pertains to necessarily your area of expertise, but upon how it relates the law, to professionalism and accountability.
Guidance for Physiotherapists (from Association of Paediatric Chartered Physiotherapists)
Guidance for Occupational Therapists (Awaiting guidance from the RCOT)
RCSLT Guidance as above
Feel free to tweet to me about this or anything else @asddadadvocate