It's the end of the school year and children are arriving home up and down the land with their school reports in those scary sealed envelopes.
But how have England's local authorities and the Department for Education done this year? SEND parent, Karen Askham, has drawn up her own report and included comments based on what she's seen with her own consultancy, SEND Karma.
So how has 2016-17 gone for you? After establishing SEND Karma in January 2016 as an independent advocate, I have seen:
- An increase of 400% in requests from groups to provide information to groups of parents on issues such as benefits, carers assessments and parental wellbeing. This information does appear to need to be delivered face to face as well as through electronic means, so maybe we aren’t as advanced and futuristic as we think we are!
- An increase of 300% in requests for individual support around well-being for families who do not receive a service. As services are squeezed and withdrawn, the need for support for some families rises sharply and the demand for 1:1, face to face coaching and support to build resilience has been brought to the fore.
- An increase of 200% on school transport More applications are being turned down and ‘deals’ being made between authorities and families to cover the costs of transport which may in some cases be unlawful.
- An increase of 100% in requests for support around Education, Health and Care Plans as parents struggle to understand the SEND Reforms – 3 years in…
- An increase of 75% in requests for support around relationships between schools and parents. Mediation, advocacy and resolution finding is so important in order to improve outcomes for children.
- An increase of 75% in requests for help with complex issues involving Social Services including allegations of Fabricated and Induced Illness and use of Section 20 legislation. Sadly, I am hearing many more stories of families who have asked for support from professionals to then be taken down a very different road to that which they imagined when they begged for help.
- More need for support with applying for benefits and what to do when applications are unsuccessful. My client base around this issue has increased by 60% as more applications for Personal Independence Payment and Disability Living Allowance are turned down.
- An increase of 50% in requests for advocacy in LAC (Looked After Children) reviews as no local help available or willing to support.
Why the increase?
Now, of course there could be other, additional reasons for these increases than just the state of SEND - for example, the need for more truly independent support and advocacy, the cuts to existing services such as Citizens Advice Bureaux and local Disability Rights organisations in a time of increased demand, a lack of budgets for training, or parents may have also become more aware through word of mouth, social media and websites about what their and their children’s rights and entitlements are and are now more prepared to seek redress.
Some of the common themes I have picked up on through feedback from parents I speak to around the Yorkshire region are:
- SEND Reforms do not appear to be being implemented on the ground
- EHC Plans vary widely in quality and parents are unsure what should be included in them, particularly transport
- Parents feel a disconnect in some cases with regard to being given information
- They appreciate the pressure services are under but feel everything is about the money and their children are not valued
- Lack of services significantly impacts on family wellbeing
So, let’s hope that next term promises improvement, meantime I encourage parents to find out what is out there locally, speak to other parents, find support and look after yourself! Together, we will make services listen.
Now, take a look at the report and let us know if you agree in the blog comments or add your own report!
Director, SEND Karma
End of school year report 2017
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She is also an experienced broadcast and print journalist & author. Tania also runs a PR, web & social media consultancy, SocialOro Media. She is a Rare Disease & chronic pain patient advocate with Ehlers Danlos syndrome.
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