Parent carers protest as 92.3% say engaging with their local SEN Team was “actively detrimental to their mental health”

With CWaC SEND Accountability campaign group, Cheshire West and Chester

Parent carers shouldn’t have to protest, they’ve got enough to do caring for their disabled children. But, angry at their treatment by local councils and increasing numbers of children failed by the SEND system, many parents are setting up or joining independent SEND parent campaigning groups. There is power in working together to effect change, as we saw recently with the parents who campaigned against the LA safety valve proposals in Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole (BCP).

Today, we bring you a guest article from parents in Chesire West and Chester, whose campaign group CWaC SEND Accountability has just protested outside their council. If their story inspires you to do similar—or you are already forming or are part of a local SEND campaign group, let us know!

Protesting SEND provision in Cheshire West and Chester by CWaC SEND Accountability

Although the CWaC SEND Accountability group is very much a community movement, a point of genesis was when Ali (parent/carer to two children) received a message from a stranger on Facebook. ‘I’m absolutely desperate’ the message read. The message was from Kim, who was in the thick of the EHCP process. Her son, Jacob, who is autistic with significant sensory needs and a speech delay, had been recommended for mainstream schooling, despite Kim knowing he required a specialist setting for his needs to be met.

Ali had been through the EHCP process a few months earlier and experienced similar difficulties with the SEND Team ignoring her pleas for help and clarity and breaching statutory time frames. Ali’s child couldn’t access nursery because of the complexity of his needs. He was essentially housebound due to his high levels of anxiety and his acute sensory needs. Ali says, “My family were in acute crisis. My child couldn’t leave the house due to his anxiety, I had a newborn baby, my mum had just died very suddenly and I was just pleading for help on a basic human level, but was resolutely ignored. I look back and will never forget how powerless I felt as a parent, at a time when my son’s welfare rested so heavily on getting this process, this document, and this schooling decision absolutely right’.

We became friends, bonded by our mutual trauma of securing schooling and support for our children. We then met Sam, who was in the middle of her own battle with the SEN Team and soon found ourselves as a trio, supporting other parents going through similar experiences. The same themes kept coming up in our conversations – negligent communication, legal obligations disregarded, no transparency, and no integrity.

Widespread damage to families

To understand if the issues we were facing were more widespread, we surveyed 52 families in Chesire West and Chester LA to determine the extent of the issues.

Worryingly:

  • 92.3% of respondents said engaging with the SEND Team was actively detrimental to their mental health
  • 92.3% of respondents said the SEND Team were negligent with their communication
  • Only 3.8% of respondents said they trusted the SEN Team
  • Only 3.8% of respondents said the SEND Team were transparent
  • 82.7% of respondents were aware of the SEND Team breaching their legal obligations

‘It’s a real community movement’

Once we realised the extent of the problem, we knew action needed to be taken and CWaC SEND Accountability came into being. More families have become involved via social media and we now have a committee of nearly 40 parents organising the protest event that took place this week.

All images: © CWAC campaign group

What do we now hope to achieve?

The growth of the CWaC SEND Accountability movement has been bittersweet: positive, in that a community has grown, but sobering as the extent of the trauma incurred by families becomes apparent.

We feel this is the cathartic moment these families need to hold the SEND Team accountable, to say, ‘This happened to me, and my family matters’. However, we also think 2024 may be the year for productive dialogue, and meaningful change to the CWaC SEND landscape. To this end, we have drafted a manifesto, setting out our vision for meaningful systemic change.

This is a brief summary of points included:

  • Parents knowing when panel meetings are taking place, who is on the panel and what their job roles are
  • Parents being informed when their child is going to be discussed at a panel meeting, with minutes provided
  • Local authority-based decision-making criteria for statutory decisions to be made public
  • An independent family liaison officer who keeps families up to date and responds promptly to queries
  • Opportunities for debrief sessions following decisions being made
  • Accountability for breaching statutory timeframes
  • High-quality EHCPs
  • Clear communication
  • Training for the SEN Team and other professionals, to ensure adherence to legislative duties
  • Opportunities to visit schools to support parental decision-making
  • Service Level Agreements to be published to promote accountability

For more information:

If you are a parent/carer in the Cheshire West and Chester area and want to get involved in our work, you can get in touch via email, Facebook, and Instagram

Also read:

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Sharon Smith
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2 Comments

  1. tonyhutton279

    Having recently finished day two of tribunal I can absolutely say everything in this manifesto applied to us and everything these people have experienced, as have we.

    Far to many employees within positions of power still protect their ” policies” their” budgets” their ” we have always done it this way” their” oh it’s that hobby troublesome parent again”…and they need to be removed..the mindset changed before real progress can be made.

    As an example the latest push is gov telling schools to hugely cut exclusions, which is great, but what measurements what safeguards what accountability will be in place to ensure the child is thriving, being taught, having an holistic balanced safe education behind those school walls…or will it be a simple segregation but still at school tick box excorsise??

  2. Amanda Lazenby

    More power to them 💪🏼👏🏼❤️ LA’s do all they can to save money and this is behind much of their in/actions. It has become entirely about finance, rather than vulnerable CYP. Even some of the minority of LA staff who are decent, have their hands tied behind their backs. Despite this, the law is there to protect CYP and yet they are the ones, along with their families who are paying the price. LA’s need to be effecting change rather than signing up for sinister Safety Valve Agreements, which only serve to disadvantage SEND even further.

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