The Green Paper Support and aspiration: a new approach to special educational needs and disability has been published following an initial consultation in relation to the special education needs (SEN) process. Responses are due by 30 June 2011. This will be of particular interest to commissioners, health visitors, paediatricians, speech and language therapists and child and adolescent mental health services teams.

Proposals will be tested in local areas from September 2011 and legislative change is anticipated at some point after May 2012.

As with all recent guidance relating to child safeguarding generally, the key theme is multi-agency working. The paper highlights the important contribution that the NHS makes in this area and picks up on various key NHS roles, including health visitors and paediatricians, in ensuring the early identification and needs of a child who requires extra support.

A key change highlighted in the “radical” overhaul is the proposal for a new single assessment process and Education, Health and Care Plan by 2014, to replace the statutory SEN assessment and statement. This will bring together education, health and social care agencies, who will be required to regularly review the plan to reflect a child's changing needs and who is responsible for the provision of care from 0 to 25 years. This involves transitional plans into adult health services.

The options of personal budgets by 2014 are also being mooted.

Health visitors receive particular attention in the document and their anticipated role in Sure Start Centres (from the recent Health Visitor Implementation Plan see article above) places them at the centre of multi-agency support provisions, including providing a health and development review for children aged between 2 and 2.5 years.

The Government is proposing to work with the health sector (including voluntary organisations) and the new Health and Wellbeing Boards to consider how appropriate outcomes can be ensured. GP consortia pathfinders will be consulted in relation to commissioning and it is envisaged that statutory guidance will be streamlined.