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New service to improve support for disabled young people

Families with disabled children are to receive greater support after helping to shape Waltham Forest’s new approach to providing education, health and social care services for young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).



Over the past 18 months, the Council has been talking to local families, along with schools and health professionals, about changes and improvements they would like to see to disability support services in the borough.



In response, the Council has launched a new Disability Enablement Service (DES) for children and young people with SEND aged up to 25 – offering a single point of access for families seeking support from the range of services on offer in the borough. 



A launch event for the new-look service was held on Monday 26 September at Walthamstow Assembly Hall, at which parents and carers and young people joined professionals to discover what the service has to offer. Alongside talks about the DES, there were presentations by young service users about their experiences, as well as musical performances by children with SEND and an interactive stand promoting theatre for people with disabilities.



Through the DES, Council officers aim to identify and assess need as early as possible in order to fully support the needs of children and young people with SEND in the area – in turn improving their education, health and social care outcomes.



“This is all about giving maximum support to local families, based on what they’ve told us they need most,” said Cllr Grace Williams, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People.



“No more disconnect between support services – the DES will provide a joined up, quality service that is responsive and flexible as our young people grow and move into adulthood.



“We’re absolutely committed to doing all we can to ensure our young people have the best start in life, while getting access to the same opportunities as each other.”



By providing families with a single point of access, the DES aims to reduce the need for multiple assessments, and by reaching children earlier in life, it hopes to offer families greater reassurance around long-term support options. The new service has been designed to bring about improvements local families both want and deserve.



The DES will have two teams – one for the north of the borough, and the other supporting families in the south. Each team will comprise Education, Health and Social Care support officers working alongside each other.



Support officers will be assigned to families as their named caseworker. While they will still develop their relationships with schools and other settings, this approach is designed to make accessing support less complicated and more personal for families.



For more information about the DES, visit www.walthamforest.gov.uk/localoffer, or phone 020 8496 6503.



Notes to editors

Young people who have received support from the borough’s disability services share their experiences:



Aaron Plummer, a 16-year-old student at William Morris School, works with the Council, championing the views and needs of fellow young people. 

Aaron said: “I was part of the William Morris School Council and now I am volunteering for the Council as a SEND Champion. 

“I am the link between the local authority, the school and other young people. I help collect the views and opinions of young people and feed this back to the Disability Enablement Service at the Council. 

“This ensures that young people’s voices are heard when developing new services and the Local Offer. 

“I will be helping the council to recruit more SEND champions to support the work we have started. 

“I have also achieved a personal goal recently which was running the London Mini Marathon.”



Jessica Boateng, who took part in Project SEARCH after studying Health and Social Care at Leyton Sixth Form College, enjoyed placements in different departments at Whipps Cross Hospital. The Project SEARCH programme in Waltham Forest is co-ordinated by Whitefield Academy Trust in partnership with Barts Health NHS Trust, Kaleidoscope Sabre supported employment services and educational establishments from across the borough and neighbouring areas.

It is just one example of an employment pathway DES users can access in order to secure work.

Jessica said: “While working in the hospital’s restaurant, the local authority offered me an opportunity for some paid part-time employment selling ice creams from a 1950s ice cream van at the Secret Cinema’s production of Dirty Dancing in July. This helped build my confidence and independence further, and helped me and my mum believe I could get a paid job.

“I had a well-deserved holiday in America and when I came back my job coach at Project SEARCH told me to come back and continue my experience in the restaurant for a few more weeks.

“After three days the catering manager in the hospital offered me a full-time permanent job in the restaurant. I have been working there since and I am really happy.”

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