Childrens & Families Act SEND Reforms

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Sensory impairments

The inclusion of children and young people who have hearing and/or visual impairments

The right to inclusion

Sensory impairment3If your child has a sensory impairment − either visual or hearing −  he or she has the same right to use services and activities as other children and young people. The law says that your child should not be discriminated against or treated less favourably by services because of their impairment or disability. Services have to take 'reasonable steps' to make sure your child is included and they do this through a process of 'risk management'. This means that services have to assess risk and then either eliminate it or minimise it by making 'reasonable adjustments' to the activities or by arranging additional support for your child. Risk assessments should not be used as an excuse for excluding your child, but should be used to find a way of including your child safely wherever possible.

Children with sensory impairments

The term 'sensory impairment' is used here to refer to children or young people with either visual or hearing impairments or both - the extent of those impairments will vary from child to child. There are some children and young people who will have both visual and hearing impairments. Some children and young people will have other impairments in addition to their sensory impairment, such as cognitive impairments, learning disabilities or physical impairments. Some children and young people may have other types of sensory impairments or may be hypersensitive to certain things in their environment. This document does not deal specifically with those types of sensory impairments or sensitivities.

If your child is both visually and hearing impaired or has other impairments, he or she may have a one-to-one support worker (sometimes called an 'intervener') funded through the local authority's 'short break' service or be eligible for that type of support. The role of the support worker will be to accompany your child to activities and services and help them to access those services. This type of support may also be available through direct payments.

Reasons given to exclude children who have sensory impairments

'It is too complicated' - Staff who provide services may assume that adjusting their service or the activities to suit your child is rather complicated and requires a lot of expertise. They may be unaware of the help and support that is available to make these adjustments.

'Something may go wrong' - Staff working in services are often fearful that something will go wrong and that they will be personally responsible. They are unaware that it is the employer or manager who is responsible, unless they do something that is considered negligent or reckless.

'We will need to employ a one-to-one support worker' - Many services assume that the only way they can support a child or young person with sensory impairments is by supporting them on a one-to-one basis and they may feel that they do not have the financial resources to do so.

'We cannot keep your child safe' - Service providers may be worried that they will not be able to adapt the environment and activities to make them safe for children and young people who have sensory impairments. They are unaware of the help and support that is available to ensure that your child can be included in services and activities. It is more about a 'can do' attitude than having technical skills.

'The service is not suitable for children with sensory impairments' - This type of decision is made before the service really understands what is required and it assumes that all children and young people with sensory impairments require a high level of expert support. It is a 'blanket rule' rather than one based on getting to know your child or making an individual assessment of your child's support needs.

'We or the other children won't be able to understand your child' - This statement may be made with regard to children and young people who use an alternative form of communication, such as sign language or Braille.

What supports my child's rights to be included in services and activities?

There are three things that support your childs right to be included in services and activities.

  • The law
  • Guidelines
  • Good practice

You will find links to these sections on the top left hand side of this page.

The law

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Good practice

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See more here