SEND inquiry takedown: Parents Vs DfE

SEND inquiry takedown: Parents Vs DfE over background outline image in blue of wrestlers

There have been close to 700 pieces of evidence (and counting) sent in to the SEND Inquiry. Tomorrow, the Department for Education will be giving evidence to the Education Select Committee in person(s). In the grand finale of the oral evidence sessions, Nadim Zahawi MP, the SEND minister; Nick Gibb MP, schools minister, and long-time DfE SEND Adviser, André Imich will all be under the committee spotlight.

We know André; he’s very nice, friendly, yet always discreet. He’s been involved with the reforms since the beginning and is one of the people who goes around the country “gently helping” local authorities who get Ofsted/CQC SEND inspection spankings to pull their socks up. We have asked him to send some positive stories for us to run on a number of occasions. The offer remains on the table, but he clearly has his hands full right now. I’m sure there are some, and I also know there is some awesome SEND practice out there, so if you have some to share, do send it in to be featured.

Think of this piece today a bit like wrestling. On one side, the DfE. On the other, a selection of evidence from said 700, (vastly more than the evidence to the 2012 pre-legislative scrutiny committee) including us and hundreds of other parents. If you recall, an early oral session included our own Matt Keer, whose evidence has been referred to a number of times in sessions since. SNJ as a whole has also had a number of name-checks from witnesses and from Robert Halfon MP, committee chair himself. We are pleased that our work has been helpful.

So back to the wrestling analogy. We’ve gathered snippets of evidence from each side and set them against each other to see who will score the biggest takedown. It could almost be amusing, if it wasn’t something that's causing so much pain and misery to families across the country. So you can also think of it as a refresher to anyone on the Education Committee who might be catching up with what’s on SNJ today, before the big oral finale tomorrow. It’s not a short post, but most of it is in the form of quotations from evidence given at the inquiry, so if you haven’t been glued to it you can catch up on the high and lowlights below.

Round One

First off, written evidence to the Education Select Committee SEND Inquiry from the Department for Education and Department of Health & Social Care, June 2018:

“We are striving for world-class education for all, whatever their background or needs; and for a more productive economy, so everyone has the chance to reach their potential and have a more fulfilled life. Every child and young person should be supported effectively to fulfil their potential and move successfully into adulthood. The Special Educational Needs (SEN) system is crucial to achieving these aims... …Our principal aims in reforming the system are these: 

  • earlier and better identification of Special Educational Needs, combined with the right provision, so that every child and young person receives the high quality teaching and support that best meet those needs; 
  • an effective inter-agency approach, where educational settings work (where appropriate) in partnership with health and social care bodies to meet needs;  
  • an improved experience for families, characterised by less conflict, having their voices heard and having genuine choice and control over the provision made for their child; 
  • a positive experience of education for the child or young person, in which he/she feels a full part of the school or college community, feels safe and valued and has opportunities to grow both academically and as a person; and
  • children and young people are able to fulfil their potential – academically and in terms of preparation for adulthood (relationships, work-readiness, health and preparedness for independent living).”

Well, okay! These are worthy aims. Let’s now examine how those aims have been translated into reality, according to the hundreds of parents and professionals who submitted evidence to this inquiry. First an assertion point from above by the DfE, then a relevant response from a selection of parents.

Point 1: “Earlier and better identification of SEN, combined with the right provision, so that every child and young person receives the high quality teaching and support that best meet those needs”

“My daughter was refused even an EHCP assessment, despite being in a mental health hospital at the time and with a recent diagnosis of autism and in serious crisis. Because she has not 'struggled' academically all her other needs were ignored.  At the mediation, within five minutes of us starting to tell our story (clearly documented in the application), the LA official was in tears and apologised for putting us through more stress. The EHCP is now being finalised and our daughter's needs are complex and there is NO SUITABLE PROVISION anywhere in the local authority. Our daughter would not have ended up in hospital for 16 months (and counting) had we had the right support sooner. Even with a clear diagnosis and some excellent expert reports, we still keep being told that no one can meet her needs.”  –

Parental Submission 3

“[Name] was predicted to achieve the highest grades at GCSE across the board but in year ten she has been out of school for six months and had only sporadic attendance previously. The very process that was supposed to protect her right to an education to meet her needs is in essence a barrier that prevents her receiving an education.”

Parental Submission 20

“Our son was in the first tranche of SEN-EHCP transition process. His EHCP was not finalised for over two years. Our unitary authority, produced poor quality EHCPs written by junior staff, unknowing of G, who essentially cut & pasted from school progress reports. There was a lack of identification of underlying need (& hence necessary provision) and certainly no ‘SMART’ targets set for the year ahead. Approximately 80% of his targets were deemed to be on-going. The process timelines were not adhered to (eg six-week turnaround from review meeting to plan not met, ever) and the task of educating G continued without reference to the EHCP as it had largely been unavailable. In effect, the process has been a bureaucratic exercise wholly divorced from the education of G”

Parental Submission 17 

“The school felt that they needed more support in the form of one-to-one. The minute that came out, the authority opposed it. We have had probably six months of fraught meetings and the whole school year was wasted, up until the end of term. R then went into a new class in the following year that had higher support and it was not quite such an issue.”

Oral evidence from Carl Rogers, parent of a child with SEND, December 2018 

Point 2: "An effective inter-agency approach, where educational settings work (where appropriate) in partnership with health and social care bodies to meet needs."

No Social Care assessment was conducted as per legal requirements and the Social Care section of the EHCP simply stated ‘not known to service’”

Parental Submission 57

“We have been lucky enough to have great support and dedication from those who have cared for my son.  The assessment process however, was difficult mainly because communication between LA and healthcare providers was poor: referrals were lost, notifications to education were lost, requests for reports were lost.  It was only me as a parent who noticed that nothing was happening and picked up the phone to ask where my son’s paperwork had gone to.  Nobody else owned the outcomes for him.”

Parental Submission 137 

“The documentation reveals a prevailing silo mentality, practically no communication between Social Services, Education, and Health, no helicopter oversight, almost no account taken of the dangerous behaviour A’s siblings were exposed to.  The family rapidly became more acquainted with the law than most LA officers. This notwithstanding, the LA would not relent, hired a barrister, and drove the case into a Tribunal.  The LA conceded in mid-afternoon of the first day of a two-day hearing, having lost 12/14 points.  Number 14 was to have been ‘costs’.  In order to meet these, grandparents and parents had to extend their mortgages by significant amounts.”

Parental Submission 163

“Co-operation between Education, Health and Social Care is extremely poor in my experience. The health sector have been helpful, other sectors have not.  Communication is crucial to the success of SEN reforms, but this has failed badly.”

Parental Submission 164

“Despite pockets of strong leadership across education, health and social care identified in some of the Ofsted and CQC joint inspection outcome letters, there is no evidence of systematic improvements to joint working and co-operation between agencies. Where there have been improvements, these have tended to be between health services and local authorities. Links between social care and the new SEND framework have been particularly slow to develop.”

Written evidence from The Special Educational Consortium

“It is also interesting to note now much colleagues in health are using the ‘excuse’ that the health need should be ‘paid’ for by education.  As an example, if a child has a gross motor difficulty, the argument can be it becomes a special educational need and the therapy becomes a provision which trains or educates a child, so it goes in with the educational section of a plan, rather than the health.  The idea of a multi agency approach is then undermined.”

Anonymous 1, an LA educational psychologist [Note: looks like this EP would ‘benefit from’ a better understanding of the law]
A selection of quotes from the text

Point 3: An improved experience for families, characterised by less conflict, having their voices heard and having genuine choice and control over the provision made for their child

“This process is so horrible. Professionals assume we all know the acronyms, the process, our rights. The reality is that it’s new to us, we don’t know the system and we feel very alone. It feels like the system sees our son as a financial burden and tries to get away with just short of what is enough to see him thrive. Cold process at a time when warmth is needed.”

Parental Submission 2

“In total, our family have been through:

  • Six SENDIST appeals resulting in four hearings. Fifth conceded by LA, Sixth resolved at mediation.
  • One Judicial Review and three pre-actions to Judicial Review.
  • On three additional occasions, we have had no option but to issue LA with deadlines and inform them JR is the next stage. 
  • One upheld LGO complaint.
  • Three formal complaints via the LA’s process.
  • One unsubstantiated referral to social services for child protection by the LA SEN Manager. This was during a SENDIST appeal and Judicial Review process, and was stopped by our child’s social worker from the disabled children’s team, who had not been consulted.

"Child protection referrals have been used in many cases by LA staff, who often have never met the children, nor discussed the referral with professionals involved in the case. Parents feel these are done in order to stop parents from challenging further.”

 Claire Ryan, parent of young people with SEND [Note: this evidence was submitted in April 2018; Claire has had to submit further complaints & another pre-action request to her LA since then] 

“My husband and myself run a successful small business and thankfully that has given me the flexibility to take so much time off. As it is myself who fulfils the roles of HR, accounts, stock & purchasing, health & safety, the situation has become critical and I am having to leave my job.

"The strain on our family has become enormous. I have contacted children services, 0-25 Team. National Autistic Society, IPSEA, SENDIASS etc and no one can help. I have complained to my local council and councillor. But that is my problem. The issue here is my son. My vulnerable, frightened, unique little boy. He could have amazing potential but by the time someone finds it, it will probably be too late. He has been let down by the system and has become a statistic.”

Parental Submission 4

Never let it be said we don’t include both sides. Here, on the same subject, are the views of Staffordshire both oral and written:

“Parental expectations about SEND assessment and access to resources have been raised unrealistically. There is a particular challenge in the widely disseminated view that LAs are obliged to assess CYP who ‘may’ have SEND. Unfortunately, this, in some cases, has led to the focus of scarce resources on those who create the greatest demand rather than those with the greatest need.”

Written evidence from Staffordshire County Council [Note: Staffordshire’s interpretation of the legal threshold for EHC needs assessment is incomplete, and therefore inaccurate.]

“It is glib to say “the modern world” but now, of course, you go on the internet and can be flooded with information. There will be everyone telling you, “You can do this and this is your right,” and you go straight through to this EHCP.”

Oral evidence from the Chief Executive of Staffordshire County Council, February 2019 [Note: Staffordshire local area was inspected by Ofsted & CQC in November 2018. Staffordshire have had to submit a written statement of action to inspectors: co-production with parents was specifically identified as an area of serious weakness. The chief executive did not mention this at any stage during his oral evidence session.]

Point 4: “A positive experience of education for the child or young person, in which he/she feels a full part of the school or college community, feels safe and valued and has opportunities to grow both academically and as a person”

And from two ‘CYPs’, also known in real life as a “young people” not soulless acronyms.

“Everything around you merges into one and you can’t really pick out the sound that you want to listen to. In social situations at school, I find I miss out on situations where I get to learn about friendships, how to interact with people and how to be confident and empowered, because these students don’t have the awareness behind using a mic. They are also very wary of SEND students, just because of things like the disability room. I understand some people need it, but when it is heavily implied that you use it from the first stage of year 7, you are basically missing the chance to make friends at the start. That hasn’t been great for me at all.

“I have applied for funding to go to Mary Hare, which is an all-deaf school. Basically, the only reason I am going there is for the culture of inclusivity, because in my past school I have not been included by my peers and by my school, I felt mainly. I felt that the responsibility has been completely dropped with that. Unfortunately that funding has been rejected, purely because they know that I can do well in a mainstream school. Unfortunately, we are going to need to fight a bit more about that.”

Francesca, deaf student, oral evidence given in March 2019

“A case that I refer to, from my experience, is that of a child in a wheelchair not having a paediatric physical therapist with them, when they mandatorily needed it. The school sacked the only therapist that they had. Instead, the child had to wait about a few months before the school paid for someone to be trained to be the therapist. Then they still had to wait for the training to go through.

“Finally, when they did get it, it was nearing the end of the year, and I believe that they were not planning on staying there, so all that money and time of the child was eventually wasted in a sense. It was something that they deserved and were given the right to, but it was not carried out because the school would not do it. There should be someone there to ensure that this child and children like this get what they deserve and what is needed for them to have the best future, and are not tossed aside and forgotten about in the system.”

Jordan, researcher with RIP:STARS, and disabled young person, via  oral evidence given in March 2019

“We have had to choose between fighting for an EHCP or supporting his fragile mental health. We chose to support his mental health but this is at the cost of academic achievement. A very bright, incredibly articulate child will at best, end up with mediocre grades in GCSE which will limit his options for 6th Form and University and life thereafter.”

Parental Submission 127

“We received no additional support or guidance from the LA regarding the many hours per week my child was out of school (she was only able to access school for 45 minutes each morning). Despite repeated requests to the specialist Autism Advisory Service, both mainstream (where she was on roll) and special school, the LA SEN team and the LA Educational Psychologist and SALT, she received no education provision during these times. She has since been unable to attend school from May 2017 to the current time and again we have had no support in that time.” 57

Parental Submission

Point 5: Children and young people are able to fulfil their potential – academically and in terms of preparation for adulthood (relationships, work-readiness, health and preparedness for independent living)

“When she came to leave the high school, we wanted her to go on to college because of the rolling out of education to age 25. The authority immediately tried to cease the plan… …They ceased the plan, yes. She had an annual review last November, I think it was. The SEN team came along, I remember, and they had no input in the meeting. There was no discussion of R’s progress or needs, no talking about what they thought she needed to do next. They did not even want to know what we thought. It was quite a brief annual review with the school. Then about six weeks later—it was the last day of term before the Christmas holidays—we received a very abrupt letter from them. They did not mention the college placement; they just said that they were going to cease the plan.”

Oral evidence from Carl Rogers, parent of a child with SEND, December 2018 

“Entry, eligibility and funding criteria can make access to suitable education challenging.  Post-16 educational provision appears to be determined by what the market is prepared to offer, rather than by the needs of young people. Local authorities should have powers to commission the provision young people need.”

Sue Gerrard, parent / carer

I’d say round one goes to… parents. Not that they’ll be particularly pleased about that. It’s more like reverse wrestling, come to think about it. Winner loses all.

Round Two

Back to the Department for Education's written submission:

“To support implementation [of the SEND Reforms] we have focused on:  

  • providing funding and support for implementation and improvement of SEND services to families, local authorities, providers and wider partners; and 
  • clear accountability structures”

Written evidence to the Education Select Committee SEND Inquiry from the Department for Education and Department of Health & Social Care, June 2018

Okey dokey, who’s first up with the first challenge? Why if it isn’t our own Matt Keer, SNJ columnist and commander-in-chief of SEND statistics fresh from his cameo appearance at the inquiry.

“To get us to this point, government has spent around £600m of public money [on the SEND reforms]. Not on front-line SEND provision. Not on extra school places, specialist teaching, or therapy. This £600m has gone almost entirely on greasing bureaucratic wheels. And bar a few honourable exceptions, this £600m revenue injection has failed to deliver.

"Barely anyone seems to have noticed that hundreds of millions of pounds have been pumped into SEND system change. Barely anyone seems to have noticed how little impact this investment has made. And worst of all, no-one in a position of authority seems bothered about it.”

Matt Keer, parent of two children with SEND, written evidence

“There is no effective accountability for bad practice. Education so far has cost over 100K and has not taught the young person the skills needed to hold down a job. The young person was born with ASD but has been further damaged by a system not fit for purpose.”

Parental Submission 36
A selection of quotes from parents
Click to enlarge

“We were aware that getting the support our child would need when at school would be difficult. Nothing could have prepared us for just how confrontational, deliberately obstructive and the scant regard for children, families and the law that we encountered from our local authority. It’s hard to believe how awful the system is and how it treats young people and their families”

Parental Submission 39 

“Many LAs have policies and practices that are unlawful, but there is no adequate system of oversight and accountability. The DfE refuses to engage with parents when they report unlawful policies. Ofsted does not automatically require a written statement of action even when LAs are falling significantly short of their statutory responsibilities. This leaves only Tribunal and the LGO to address systemic failings”

Gillian Doherty, parent

And from the committee chair himself, Robert Halfon MP, to an unrepentant Stuart Gallimore, Director of Children’s Services from East Sussex:

“Q749 - Chair (Robert Halfon MP): Why is it that the ombudsman has upheld every single complaint made [about] your council’s SEND service that they have the jurisdiction to investigate? Does that not show that something is deeply wrong? Every single complaint.

Stuart Gallimore: "What it has shown is that, in those instances that they have investigated, they have found against the local authority. They consider each individual circumstance. I do not think you can extrapolate from the ombudsman to a local authority.” Oral evidence from the Director of Children’s Services at East Sussex County Council, given May 2019

Me: Oh dear, sir, I think you’ll find we can extrapolate exactly that… once may be unfortunate, the ombudsman finding fault every single time smacks of extreme carelessness, don’t you think? In wrestling parlance, he’d have lost several points for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Round 3

Back to your corners please!

“We have seen the positive impact of EHC plans through the Ofsted/CQC inspections” – Written evidence to the Education Select Committee SEND Inquiry from the Department for Education and Department of Health & Social Care, June 2018

A new contestant enters the ring… why it’s none other than Ofsted!

“Inspectors frequently found that while EHC plans were in place, they were often of poor quality, lacked specificity about provision and had weaknesses in planned outcomes for children and young people.

“Many local areas invested heavily to ensure that they transferred statements to EHC plans before the 31 March 2018 deadline, which was set out in the Government reforms. However, inspectors have consistently found issues with the quality of these plans, in particular poor quality of contributions from health and care, lack of specificity about provision and weaknesses in planned outcomes for CYP. This means that, although the vast majority of CYP now have the required EHC plans, many have poor plans that do not provide access to their entitlements. Local areas are taking insufficient action to address this.” 

Written evidence from Ofsted

Quote from a parent from the text
Click to enlarge

“During 2017, SEC heard growing concerns from its members that many children with statements were being denied their legal rights to an EHC needs assessment as part of the transfer review process and that, as a consequence, inadequate EHC plans were being issued. Following these concerns SEC carried out a survey in autumn 2017. 

 “Over 430 organisations and professionals directly involved in the transfer process took part in the survey. Some respondents to the survey provided examples of good practice, but the majority substantiated the concerns that SEC had heard: that the legal entitlements of children and parents have been systematically compromised during the transfer process. More specifically, 52% of respondents said that children in their area being transferred from statements rarely or never received their legal entitlement to a full EHC needs assessment.” 

“SEC believes that EHC plans issued through this compromised process will not meet children’s needs and will fail to improve outcomes for them”

Written evidence from the Special Educational Consortium

“The Minister claims he’s never seen an EHCP that’s ‘not worth the paper it’s written on’. I wonder if he’s actually seen any at all? Perhaps he would like to come to [local authority name redacted] and see some appalling examples.”

Parental Submission 56 

“We were informally advised from early on that our local authority were so overwhelmed by both the conversion process and the volume of new cases, they would not convert my son’s statement until he was in year 11, which was the school year 2016/2017.  My son was becoming increasingly agitated and anxious about his post-16 placement, but without the EHCP in place, no one could tell him where he would be going, or help him to prepare. He became increasingly belligerent and non-compliant, and distressed about attending school. A draft plan was issued in March 2017. By this point, my son’s behaviour was volatile, highly aggressive and self-injuring.

“The draft EHCP comprised only ’cut and pasted’ information from old annual review documents. It was worded so vaguely, there was no obligation on the local authority to offer the support my son had been receiving as part of his package at school, nor any attempt to properly identify his needs. There was no input from social care or health, and only out-of-date information from education. It wasn’t until late May, far beyond the time framework laid out in the code of practice, before a proper EHCP was produced and a provision named. This left only approximately eight weeks before the end of term to prepare my son for college… … As a result, my son’s behaviour and quality of life suffered; he had to be put on psychiatric medicine to help him cope.”

Parental Submission 93

If the DfE isn’t staggering around the ring reeling by now, it really ought to be. The parents have had them in a full a nelson more than once in the last three rounds. But they’re not ready to concede yet...

Round 4

They don’t give in easily in government departments, they’ve had it tough before, lots of times. Here they come again...

“An effective funding system is a cornerstone of an effective education system. The funding system should underpin the delivery of our educational priorities, supporting every child and young person to reach their potential whatever their background” Written evidence from the DfE to the SEND Inquiry (55)

But they are just outnumbered by the size of their opposing team, they just keep coming and coming...

“Funding continues to be attracted by those children whose parents fight hardest and make their wishes most felt by school and LA staff. The lack of ring-fencing of SEND budgets offers a perverse incentive that has caused a good number of schools in our county to turn away parents of children with SEND whose needs could be met from ordinarily available provision relatively easily. A local school which meets the needs of children with SEND very effectively has well above the number of children with SEND that could normally be expected because they get it right for them, yet has the same notional budget as the similar school that is turning these children away.”

Alison Prosser, parent to 2 young people with SEND

“It makes you want to tear your hair out when ministers come on TV and radio claiming that more money than ever is going on to the education system (implying shut up, go away and be grateful). All I can wonder is ‘where is it all going then?’ It is very obvious schools and colleges are making cut after cut.”

Parental Submission 108

“If my son had been provided with the right support in Primary school, and his Speech and Language disorder has been identified early enough, he may well have been able to remain in the mainstream system, but we will never know as his needs were ignored or misunderstood. 

Instead of spending money on investigating the cause and providing the support he needed at the time, he now costs the Local Authority a massive amount of money and will continue to do so as he cannot return to mainstream school. He is far too vulnerable now. 

The key is fund the support in mainstream, although it comes at a cost, the cost is far removed from the independent school costs. Obviously, this means better training for teachers and school staff, but the long-term savings will be worth the investment.”

Parental Submission 31

Round 5

Ding ding! Reverse psychology time…

"We are pleased that there remains a real commitment from families, statutory services and the voluntary sector that the 2014 reforms remain the right ones. We are encouraged by the early evidence of the impact of their implementation in improving the lives of children and young people with SEND. DFE written evidence to the SEND Inquiry, 97

I don’t know about you but I’m exhausted from hearing so many poor, nay horrific, experiences. And the reforms themselves aren’t that bad IMHO. But it’s the money and the will and the culture… my dear, it was every thus and parents have evidence to prove it.

“Our son has suffered emotionally and mentally due to the lack of action and accountability by both his school and the Local Authority. This personal experience coupled with my experience as a SEND Reforms programme manager have made me come to the conclusion that the SEND Reforms are a pipe dream, I see no evidence that this has been implemented successfully in fact the reverse. I hope that the committee will affect the necessary change to make this work as the concept of the SEND Reforms was truly ground-breaking. Thousands of vulnerable young people need this to be driven forwards so that they can lead purposeful, fulfilling lives.”

Parental Submission 33 

“My daughter has suffered during her education journey and has been incredibly brave. As a parent, I can’t describe the pain involved in watching my daughter’s mental health deteriorate to the point where she is no longer functional in day to day activities, or the frustration in trying to secure appropriate support in a system which constantly tells you there is no money and has waiting lists in years not weeks. My daughters EHCP addressed her visual needs but left her other needs completely unsupported.  

“I respect all the teachers in her schools and the Local Authority. I appreciate how hard they all work in their vocation. I was a teacher and a [redacted]. Even I, with my skills, feel that the SEND journey has been too difficult to navigate. I feel as if I have failed my daughter. I have tried my best to seek appropriate support for [name] and yet my wonderful, clever but vulnerable daughter has currently slipped out of education and has developed a severe anxiety disorder.”

Parental Submission 168

“The experiences over the last few years with both my children, in terms of Schools and Local Council, have left me exhausted, frustrated and devoid of any faith in people or the exasperating bureaucracy of this Country.  My thoughts, feelings and concerns about my children have been ignored, ridiculed and dismissed with an arrogance that at times has left me feeling they are right and I am simply a bad mother. 

"I no longer trust the Schools or the Council to act in the best interests of my Children, my family’s treatment at the hands of so-called professionals, some not all, is nothing short of scandalous.  At every level there has been a lack of understanding, compassion, urgency and even concern for my children’s needs, people are more concerned about money, paperwork and protocol.”

Parental Submission 159

“I am just trying to think of the positive. I am struggling with that. Systemically—I am a systemic worker—that is where I have had to pull on myself, my friends and the knowledge of the internet, whatever. I am struggling to answer that question. Where a breakthrough has been? It is that my child still goes to school, if that makes sense. I do not think that is anything anybody has done apart from his perseverance and the resilience that he has had to build up from being treated differently. I do not know. I think I will end there because I am struggling.”

Kathleen Redcliffe, parent of a child with SEND, oral evidence given December 2018

“In summary, we believe that these are the right reforms in the wrong environment. This means we cannot say that we have met the aspirations of families or consistently delivered the legal requirements of the SEND reforms.”

Mrunal Ssodia, parent and Co-Chair of the National Network of Parent Carer Forums

Even the NNPCF, above, who are being deserted by many a parent because of restrictions on campaigning against cuts, cannot back up the government (who ultimately fund them). I sense a final takedown in the air.

Two quotes taken from the text
Click to enlarge

Round 6

"The completion of the statutory transition to EHC plans is an important milestone, but we know there is much more to do to embed the changes and achieve consistency across the country." DFE written evidence to the SEND Inquiry, 97

The final round. Our last selection is a hint that the DfE do recognise the strength of anger and despair parents are feeling. Reading these quotes it’s hard not to, if they’ve read them, that is. For parents, it’s like being given a huge shiny box for Christmas with lots of fanfare and expectation, then out leaps a demonic clown who gathers up your children’s other toys and disappears with them back into the box. You try to chase after it but there’s nothing in there but an IOU. The stuff of nightmares. So what does the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, Michael King think? He gave oral evidence and said,

“Parents who come to us often tell a story of not being involved in the process, not being consulted, basic administrative errors where they are not being sent copies of the draft plan or the plan, and where evidence is not gathered properly. Some of the problems that persisted in the old system carry on in the new. 

“Since we did our report in 2017, there would be an argument to ask whether that was just the new system bedding in at that point. The problems we saw then have continued since. We now uphold 87% of the investigations we carry out. That is an unprecedented amount in our work. Our average across the whole of local government is 58%, so 87% is probably the highest category of fault we find in any area of our jurisdiction.”

Michael King, Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman, oral evidence given April 2019

“I feel I am one of the fortunate ones. Compared to many families, things are going well for us. However, I have a child who does not have any SEND. I have never once cried about anything in relation to his education. I can genuinely say, though, that I have lost count of the hours I have spent in tears about my daughter and the difficulties we have faced trying to get even the most basic levels of provision in place for her. It is something I would not want to wish on my own worst enemy.

The system is BROKEN.”

Parental Submission 22

And with that ladies and gents, boys and girls, I think we have a winner of the wrestling match who is yet also the loser of the SEND reforms. Our children.

With thanks to MK for support with this epic article.

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Tania Tirraoro

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