Update December 12th 2017
The Bill passed into law on December 12th 2017. NB not all sections of the Act will necessarily come into force at the start; for example the Social Services and Wellbeing Act took 2 years
Sinclairs Law is holding a free information event in Cardiff on December 15th 2017. LINK
The Welsh Government ran into difficulties over costings, following concerns raised by SNAP Cymru about dispute resolution and appeals. It has been reported that anticipated savings are down from £14.2 million to £3.7 million. The Welsh Government had to delay moving the financial resolution, see Record of Proceedings June 6 2017
A Revised Explanatory Memorandum was published in November 2017 including an Impact Assessment, from which the following extract is taken "Section 24 enables a child or their parent, or the young person, to request that a local authority (which is responsible for the child or young person) reconsiders the decision of a maintained school governing body that a child or young person has or does not have ALN. Where requested, the local authority must make its own decision on the issue; that decision will then replace the decision of the governing body, and the previous decision made by the governing body will cease to have effect. Before making a decision, the local authority must inform the governing body of the request and invite representations from the governing body. This section provides children and their parents, and young people, with an effective means of challenging the decision of the governing body of a maintained school in Wales, in the absence of a right of appeal to the Tribunal against these bodies"
Previously, in July 2016 the Welsh Government published a commentary on responses to the 2015 Additional Learning Needs consultation. At the same time, Alun Davies, Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language noted "misunderstandings of our intentions or the anticipated practical impact of our proposals" as well as "direct concerns about specific aspects of the proposals" I blogged what parents were saying here
How Does The Additional Learning Needs Bill Become Law?
On July 14th 2016 the Welsh Government said it expected publication of the new Additional Learning Needs Bill before Christmas.
In terms of legislative scrutiny, there is a significant difference between England and Wales in that Wales does not have a Second Chamber (House of Lords) The Business Committee sets the deadline for various stages, so committees and debates don't go on indefinitely.
It may well be that a lot of the detail is kept back for secondary legislation or for a new ALN Code of Practice. A draft illustrative Code was published in 2015 but is NOT now relevant as events have moved on. A new draft code was published in February 2017 but this will likely change again as the Bill is debated and amended. (There should also be a consultation on the code)
Stage 1 The committee will consider "general principles" of the Bill, and will ask for written and oral evidence from interested parties, as well as holding meetings to take oral evidence from a range of interested stakeholders. The committee will then publish a Stage 1 Report, which may contain recommendations for amendments to the Bill. After at least 5 working days, there is a Stage 1 debate in the Assembly where AMs could raise issues on behalf of constituents.
Stage 2 After the Stage 1 debate and vote, there will either be a small group committee (made up of selected Assembly Members) or "a Committee of the Whole Assembly". This decision is made by the Business Committee. Whichever committee is chosen then begins to go through the Bill line by line, considering whether to accept amendments to the Bill. Stage 2 amendments must be tabled by committee members at least 5 working days before the meeting at which they are to be considered. (See page 13 for more details on who can table amendments and vote on them here.)
Stage 2 ends with a new version of the Bill being published.
Stage 3 provides a chance for ALL Assembly Members to table amendments and to vote on the details of the Bill (although not all amendments are necessarily selected for debate AND there may be a time limit) At least 15 days must pass between the end of Stage 2 and the first Stage 3 debate. You can read the transcript of these debates within 24 hours. At the end of Stage 3 an "amended at Stage 3" version will be published.
Report Stage is optional. The Assembly may return to issues in the Bill during Report stage, for example if significant changes have been made during Stage 3. This is the LAST time anything can be changed.
Stage 4 At Stage 4 the Assembly will vote on a motion to pass the final text of the Bill, and then if there is no legal challenge, the Bill will receive Royal Assent and become an Act.
In Wales, the term "special educational needs" [SEN] has been replaced by "additional learning needs" [ALN].
In July 2015 the Welsh Government launched a consultation on the Draft Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Bill. Comments were requested by December 2015. A new draft Additional Learning Needs Code of Practice was also published at the end of September 2015.
The proposals in the draft Bill largely follow the proposals set out in the 2014 White Paper, notably a single category of 'Additional Learning Needs' to replace Statements, School Action, and School Action Plus.
Archived page as pdf with full details of these earlier proposals here which have now been superseded.
Sinclair Law consultation response 2015, Mike Charles LINK highlighted the danger of removing the statutory assessment leaving a general requirement upon schools to identify need as opposed to to a prescribed system of expert assessments. Welsh Government clarification November 2015: " In the case of those learners whose needs are complex and severe, the draft Bill would empower schools to refer cases to local authorities as needed ..." Sinclair Law comment December 2015 LINK "this proposed bill, if passed, will not only send schools into battle with parents, but will most certainly lead to potential litigation.
Social Welfare Law Wales
SOCIAL WELFARE LAW IN WALES including Overview Briefing Social Services and Wellbeing Act Wales 2014, Luke Clements, updated September 2017: "The ‘headline’ difference between the [English and Welsh] Acts is that the Welsh Act applies to people ‘in need’ of any age and their carers, whereas the English Act is largely confined to the needs of ‘adults in need’ and their adult carers. This briefing paper focuses on the provisions in the Welsh Act that deal with the rights of disabled children, adults in need and their carers."