Children and Families Act

Following the publication of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Green Paper in March 2011, the Government passed the Children and Families Act in March 2014.

What does the Act mean?

The Act changes how young people with autism access services and support. The key changes will be:

  1. Replacing Statements of Special Educational Needs with a single assessment process and an Education, Health and Care Plan from September 2014.
  2. Providing statutory protection comparable to those in Statements of Special Educational Needs for young people who are in education or training up to the age of 25 instead of ending at 16.
  3. Giving parents or young people the right to a personal budget for their support. 
  4. Placing a requirement on health services and local authorities to jointly commission and plan services for children, young people and families.

You can read the Children and Families Act on the UK Government Legislation website and  Regulations on the Department for Education website. The Personal Budgets Regaultions can also be found on the Government Legislation website.

How will the Act affect my child?

You can read our Children and Families Act FAQ factsheet for parents which contains a number of frequently asked questions about how the Act will affect the way in which your child receives support.

How did Ambitious about Autism influence the Act?

Since the Government announced its intention to reform the way children with special educational needs received support, we worked hard to make sure policy makers considered the views of children and young people with autism and their families.

The Government published a Green Paper that set out the key ideas that they intended to include in the Bill in Spring 2011. This Green Paper was subject to Public Consultation. You can read our response (PDF 640KB). A draft form of the Act was then debated by MPs in the House of Commons and Members of the House of Lords. Both MPs and Peers looked over the Act and discussed amendments that they thought might improve it. We provided briefing notes setting out the key issues for children and young people with autism. Our areas of priority were:

  1. Current statutory duties be protected
  2. Current statutory duties be extended up to the age of 25
  3. Adequate support for children and young people with SEN but without an Education Health and Care Plan
  4. Parents and young people have access to support in managing personal budgets
  5. Creating stronger rights to health and social care support
  6. Education Health and Care Plans must be portable across local authorities
  7. A smooth transition between Statements and Education Health and Care Plans.

Our report Our Lives in Your Hands (PDF 944KB) tells the stories of nine families of young people with autism and highlights how the reforms in the Children and Families Act will affect them. The report was shared with policy makers to help them better understand how the Act will affect the lives of the children and young people with autism and their families.

We are pleased that some of the concerns we had when the Bill was first published have been taken into consideration and the Bill amended accordingly. In particular we are pleased that that there are now stronger rights on maintaining Education Health and Care Plans post 16.

What happens next?

The regulations and a new SEND Code of Practice have been approved by Parliament. Implementation of the Act will begin from September 2014. The Government have also published Transitional Arrangements setting out how implementation will happen. Implementation is likely to be phased over the next three years. There is non statutuory guidance for local authorities about implementing the act.

If you have views or questions on the Act please let us know by emailing