Confusion has surrounded possible government plans to extend the use of personal budgets to support for disabled children at school.
In documents released as part of this week’s spending review, the Treasury said the government wanted to “significantly extend” the use of personal budgets across areas including “special education needs, support for children with disabilities, long term health conditions and adult social care”.
This, it said, was part of shifting power “directly into people’s hands by giving them more control over the money spent on public services”.
But there was confusion around what the government’s plans would mean in practice, with the Department for Education (DfE) unable to clarify exactly how personal budgets would be extended.
Some campaigners say the reference may be to using personal budgets for the social care needs of disabled children and young people, rather than using them to provide educational support in school.
A green paper on special educational needs (SEN) is due to be published by the Liberal Democrat children and families minister Sarah Teather this autumn.
A DfE spokesman said the department was looking at extending personal budgets as part of the green paper.
He said: “It is something we have been told the green paper is going to look at.
“It is something ministers want to happen but is it something the department has been working on in detail? It is not.”
But when asked whether the reference to personal budgets and “special education needs” related to educational support at school for disabled children, he said: “It looks like that.”
The coalition government has strongly backed moves by the previous government to “personalise” social care through the use of personal budgets, which allow disabled people to choose how they spend money allocated for their support.
But it had given no previous hint that it wanted to extend the personalisation agenda to educational support for disabled children and those with SEN.
Simone Aspis, campaigns and policy coordinator for the Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE), said she believed the government could just be referring to using personal budgets for social care support.
But she added: “We would support having a personal budget to support disabled children and young people to access mainstream education and the personal assistance and equipment [they need] to participate in the mainstream.”
But she warned that any such move should not be a substitute for teachers taking responsibility for providing an inclusive environment for their pupils.
21 October 2010