Last Friday we published our report #ProvisionDenied, that showed children and young people with SEND have had their needs and education “pushed to one side, for the convenience of the majority.” We approached a number of organisations for comment and included them in the article. We've included them again here below
We also asked for a comment from the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman who have published previous reports into SEND. The LGSCO again called for an extension of their existing jurisdiction and something new (as far as I'm aware), that indicates they are anticipating a flood of COVID-related complaints in the coming months:
“It is vitally important that children with special educational needs and disabilities, and their families, receive the support to which they are entitled. We have spoken out about this many times in the past, and have issued numerous special reports based on the repeated failings we have seen in the current system, when people bring their cases to us. Even before the current crisis, we were upholding around 91% of the cases we were investigating about Education, Health and Care Plans.
“We have long called for our jurisdiction to be extended to include the actions of schools. Gaining powers over this area would be a significant move to closing a widely-acknowledged area of little accountability, and would enable us to remedy injustice for far more families.
“While it is a little early for us to have received or investigated in detail cases from September, we are alert to the issue and have established a dedicated team to investigate Covid-related complaints once they have completed the local complaint process.
“We are monitoring the complaints we do receive carefully and will publicly flag our concerns, and share any learning from those complaints in due course. Meanwhile, we would encourage parents who have concerns about the level of provision their child is receiving to raise the issue as early as possible with their local authorities, and then bring their complaints to us if they remain dissatisfied.”Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman
Who can take a complaint to the Ombudsman?
You can complain to the Ombudsman about most areas of council services, including some parts of education and schools (though not academies), children's services including social care, and adult social care. As the quote says, the LGSCO wants its powers extended to be able to include both the actions of schools, and to academies. We support this completely.
With 91% of cases upheld as mentioned, special educational needs far outstrips other areas of Ombudsman investigations. And yet nothing seems to change within local authority practice as a whole. Sick, isn't it?
LAs seem to treat both the Ombudsman and the SEND Tribunal (95% found in favour of parents) as a game. While LAs lose most cases against them that go to a Tribunal appeal or LGSCO investigation, they know very well that most parents either don't know how to complain/appeal, don't have the capacity or the energy to go through the process, or just accept that because the council made the decision, it must be right.
Before you can complain, you must go through the council's own complaints stages and ensure that you are complaining to the right body. You also can't currently get an Ombudsman ruling while a Tribunal appeal is active - and we think this is something that needs to be looked at.
The Ombudsman has a video here about how to complain and factsheets for children's social care, and Education issues for special educational needs, Education Other than at School, Exclusions, School Transport, Schools Admissions, Delayed Entry for Summer born pupils, and infant class sizes. It's a good idea to read previous decisions to get a taste of what can and can't be done. If you're still not sure about whether you can complain about an issue, they have a telephone helpline, limited at the moment because of the pandemic
Watch our short video with the report's headlines
What did others say about our report?
We included comments from other organisations who previewed our report, but we think it's worth adding them below as well. Click the one you want to read to enlarge. We've also made the text into a PDF if needed for accessibility
- How a parent held her council to account for its SEND failures
- Ofsted: Two-thirds of disabled children “disengaged” from remote learning, while less than half of schools offer extra help
- More parents seeking children’s mental health support in pandemic, with growing pessimism over support delays
- Lockdown 3: What does it mean for the rights of children with SEND?
- How the National Tutoring Programme can be a powerful tool to help SEND pupils during lockdown
- SEND researchers identify key lessons for teaching children with special education needs in lockdown
- 95% of decisions in favour of parents, but nobody wins at the SEND Tribunal
- Blockbusting: What’s Happened to the £780m in Extra SEND Funding?
- Disabled children “increasingly failed” as nearly 9 in 10 EHCP Ombudsman complaints upheld
- Using the Monitoring Officer to hold councils to account for housing, education and social services
- Challenging opaque, illegal social care plans for disabled adults
- The right to a suitable education: what the law says
- Know your child’s rights to social care support
- SEND risk assessments and preparing for a return to school (or not)
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- EXCLUSIVE: DfE answers further questions on “targets” for EHCP cuts, removing children from specialist provision and plans to boost SEND in schools - October 2, 2023
- Dame Christine Lenehan: a career advocating for disabled children’s rights - September 27, 2023
- SEND Minister denies the Government is aiming to cut EHCPs by 20% with an emphatic, but unconvincing, explanation - September 22, 2023