Special Educational Needs and Disabilities 

At Surrey Youth Focus, we are passionate about improving the system to serve everyone equally. We actively seek to improve opportunities and support for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and their families, and work closely with partners across Surrey to understand the needs of disabled children and young people aged 0—25 and to amplify their voices. This insight enables us to contribute to the county’s SEND strategy and support service developments.

Special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)

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Supporting families

We strongly believe that every young person should have the opportunity to achieve their potential, and evidence shows that children are far more likely to do this when supported by their family. Parents and carers know their children better than anyone, and in most cases, are best placed to know what their family needs. We understand the importance of listening to families and working with them, in order to provide them with access to the information, advice and support they need in a timely way. We work alongside colleagues in Social Care, Health, Education, Police and the wider third sector to make this to happen.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

Both local and national evidence suggests a significant rise in the number of children, young people and families who will need additional help as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However necessary, the prolonged lockdown has had an unprecedented impact on individuals and communities, with more people experiencing loneliness and poor mental health, poverty, drug use and even abuse.

These are all serious issues which require intervention, however no one organisation can meet these needs alone. To tackle this, Surrey County Council (SCC) and Surrey Youth Focus are bringing together colleagues from voluntary, community and faith sector (VCFS) and the statutory sector to share local insight into the presenting needs of young people, hearing examples of some exceptional work which is already happening and exploring a shared response to the potential surge in demand over the next 12-18 months.

In November 2020, 43 partners from the VCFS, SCC, Police, NHS and Education came together to explore how we can better work together to support families, forming part of SCC’s Helping Families Early Strategy.

0-4 years SEND transformation

0-4 years SEND transformation

We want families with young children who have additional needs or are not developing as expected to be able to access information, advice and support easily and when it is needed. We are working with colleagues from social care, education, health and the third sector on a system-wide transformation of pathways, services and support provided to families with children aged 0-4 years with additional needs. SYF is co-leading work (with Family Voice) that will support families with young children who have additional needs to live well and feel supported in their local community.

Work is being undertaken across the system to improve the pathways, services and support provided to families with children with additional needs. We are involved in the transformation of part of the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) system, focusing on those families with children aged 0-4 years, by sitting on the project board and co-leading the ‘Enabling Families to Thrive’ workstream. In addition to this, we actively seek out opportunities to work alongside colleagues in other organisations to ensure that the third sector is involved in developing this support.

SEND Network

Surrey’s Voluntary, Community and Faith sector (VCFS) SEND Network seeks to enhance partnership working and the sharing of information to help inform the decisions and support provided to children with SEND and their families. If you are looking for SEND representation on strategic boards and transformation groups, please contact one of the network co-chairs (SYF/Family Voice/YMCA East Surrey).

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Third Sector SEND Network

We have joined forces with Family Voice Surrey to run a new network for third sector organisations who serve children and young people with additional needs, and their families. If you work in this areas and are interested in joining the network, please contact info@surreyyouthfocus.org.uk

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All Age Autism Strategy 

We are supporting Surrey County Council in their work on the All Age Autism Strategy. This work brings together the thoughts and needs of autistic children and young people, autistic adults, family carers and Surrey SEND professionals to achieve an autism-friendly approach across the county, spanning education, health, social care, work and communities. The aim is that services have a more joined-up, proactive, timely and autism-accessible offer, and to promote a cultural shift so that community and service settings are understanding and welcoming for autistic children and adults.

Graduated response  

Graduated response refers to the way in which services in Surrey work together with parents/carers, schools and other settings to improve the outcomes for children and young people with SEND. We are supporting Surrey County Council to ensure that there is a wide and diverse SEND offer available, that children and young people’s needs are identified at the earliest opportunity, and that the most appropriate support is put in place.

Useful SEND resources

First 1000 Days project

The First 1000 Days is a health-led initiative that aims to help families get the best start in life. It focuses on the development and delivery of services, support and advice given to families from early pregnancy through to 2 years old. A partnership approach has been taken so that all agencies working with young families can input, and we sit on the steering group to ensure that the third sector is included in the development and delivery of this work.

One example of how we have contributed to this important project is our training work with the Health Service’s Speech, Language & Communication team. We delivered training to 80 volunteers working with families through home visits or toddler groups, upskilling them to be able to support language and communication development.