The most vulnerable children and families are being hit hardest by funding cuts and by the poor implementation of legislation designed to help them. That’s the conclusion of a report this week from the Education Select Committee, which says schools are struggling to provide support for pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).
Paula Ferguson, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Winchester and Chandler’s Ford is calling on the Government to fund SEND provision properly. “I’ve worked with a lot of children with special educational needs and have seen first-hand how hard it can be for families to access the support their children need. Schools do their best, but they don’t have the staff and they are working with incredibly limited resources.’
Charles, whose son Oliver has severe autism, told Paula it took over 18 months to get an Education, Health and Care Plan approved before Oliver could be given a permanent place at Osborne School, Winchester. He said, “We were desperately worried because I knew our son needed to be in a Special School environment in order to learn, in order to progress. The whole process was so difficult and so long, I felt I would have to fight to my last breath. Parents shouldn’t have to fight and keep struggling for months and years just to get what their children should be entitled to.’
In a recent report West Hampshire Clinical Commissioning Group identified that Special Educational Needs provision is an area where “High Risk Still Remains”. It highlighted that a 45% increase in demand for services was impacting both Hampshire County Council’s and the Care Commissioning Group’s ability to meet statutory targets. Yet, Hampshire County Council recently announced further cuts of £17.2 million to children’s and young people’s services as part of its 2021 transformation programme.
Paula comments, “I know from personal experience the difference that proper support can make to these young people. It’s not that schools aren’t doing everything they can, there just isn’t enough funding. This government simply isn’t fully committed to helping the most vulnerable children in education. They are once again being left to sink to the bottom of the pile.”
The Liberal Democrats are calling for councils to be given thousands of pounds a year extra for every child who has complex educational needs, so that the right support can be delivered. 18 months is an unacceptably long time for both children and parents to wait to know if they are going to get the help they need.
Paula Ferguson has a MSc in Educational & Developmental Psychology from UCL’s Institute of Education, and works with children with educational and developmental difficulties.