Susan Hailes says that local authorities, suffering funding cuts, are failing children with special needs

John Harris is absolutely right to state that the implementation of special needs reforms and the introduction of education health care plans, and the ensuing lack of proper support for children with SEN, is “a big story” (Education, 5 September). It is, sadly, a story that has managed, somehow, not to receive the coverage it deserves. My experience of local authorities in the EHCP process is that the child is left unsupported and parents worn down by a constant failure to listen to their very real fears and concerns for their children.

My own daughter has complex medical needs that result in her often missing school; she was refused an assessment. I fought her case, took it to tribunal and won. The judge said the local authority’s opposition to my appeal was “incomprehensible”. My daughter was fortunate that before I became her full-time carer I was a barrister and therefore competent to fight for her. In the year and a half since her tribunal, I have supported other families and have seen them coping with huge levels of stress and their children denied assessments to which they were so clearly entitled. One child had been repeatedly denied support, excluded from school, her mental health needs so severe that she became suicidal and required an emergency admission to a psychiatric hospital. We have just, finally, managed to secure an EHCP for her, and an appropriate residential placement, but only after rejection piled upon rejection. Another child, a triplet with multiple medical needs, including the need to be fed by gastrostomy, was denied assessment because the LA would not accept that her medical needs had a significant impact on her ability to learn.

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