Wolverhampton has received national praise for driving forward improvements to services for young people with special educational needs and disabilities.

Last year, the Government set out a range of proposals to improve provision for vulnerable young people.

The legislation is set to come into force in 2014, but Wolverhampton City Council's Special Educational Needs (SEN) team has seized the initiative and is already taking forward many of the reforms which have been outlined.

Working with colleagues in health, education and social care as well as the young people and their families, they have developed new ways of working which put the needs of the young person first. And the council was praised for its efforts by Edward Timpson, Children and Families Minister, in a speech last month.

Sandy Lisle, Wolverhampton City Council's SEN Manager, said: "Although we weren't picked as one of the pathfinder councils for these proposals, we felt we were ready and able to introduce many of the improvements that the Government wants brought in.

"Over the last year or so, we've developed a more streamlined single assessment process, meaning children and young people's requirements are identified more quickly, and are working with 16 families to pilot new education, health and care plans which are totally focused on their aspirations and needs."

Jill Wellings, Head of the Special Needs Early Years Service, added: "We're also using a Team Around the Child and person centred approach to the work we do, which means involving the young person and their parents at all stages of their assessment and the planning and reviewing of their services.

"It's having a big impact on our service users as their needs are picked up early and we're able to put support in place quickly. They, and their parents and families, are at the centre of the planning and monitoring process and so feel better supported and informed about the opportunities open to them.

"It means that children and young people can reach their full potential and are supported to make a successful transition into adulthood, whether that's into employment, further education or training."

Parents Sarah and Mark Baker, who have been involved in the pilot running in Wolverhampton, said: "The process was smooth and easy and felt very personal to us as a family. We felt very involved and we are really pleased with the outcome."

The Department for Education has visited Wolverhampton and acknowledged the significant progress that services are making in implementing the new reforms without the benefit of funding which was given to the pathfinder councils.

And speaking at a national conference last month, Edward Timpson, Children and Families Minister, told councils: "You don't have to wait for legislation. You can start innovating and introducing changes now. Wolverhampton is not a pathfinder but has already begun involving families in developing integrated assessments and education, health and care plans and a draft local offer.''

Councillor Val Gibson, Wolverhampton City Council's Cabinet Member for Children and Families, said: "I'm delighted by the work of our Special Educational Needs team and their colleagues who have already started to introduce a number of changes to improve services to children and young people in Wolverhampton - and that their efforts have been recognised by the Minister."

Around 1,500 children and young people in Wolverhampton aged up to 25 have a statement of special educational needs.

  • released: Wednesday 6 November, 2013