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Panorama report on SEND families ‘on their knees’

09 September 2020

The BBC’s Panorama programme has reported on the dire situation many of the one million families with children with special educational needs and disabilities in the UK are facing.

Parents reported that they felt like “an unreasonable drain on resources” as local authorities seek to keep costs down, with other parents reporting gross inaccuracies in education health and care plans (EHCPs), with their children being misgendered and assigned the wrong ethnic backgrounds, suggesting that the reports were not tailored, as they should be, to their individual children, but copied and pasted from generic templates or other children’s reports.

In six years, the number of appeals about EHCPs has shot up from 453 to almost 4,000 in 2019.

Local authorities have spent £40m on resources to defend their cases at tribunal, while stretched families are trying to resource-match while having to find fighting funds of nearly £10,000.

DR UK’s Kamran Mallick said: “We hear the same story across the whole country that parents of children with SEND are feeling failed. Raising a child is exhausting. Raising a child while fighting a system which should put the child at its centre, but instead puts the process at its centre is emotionally and financially draining for far too many families. They are on their knees.

“The system should be easy to navigate. It should be supportive of the parents, not setting them up for a fight. The government needs to ensure that the funding matches the legislation: child-centred law must be backed up with the funding to make it happen.”

The report also highlighted an offer by Kent County Council of £100,000 to one family if they were going to move to another local authority’s area, on condition they did not return for five years.

Kamran Mallick said: “Councils should not be shunting people around the country – a move which both horrifies and depresses struggling families. This is a national problem. It is not going to go away without a sea change in government understanding, and the delivery of appropriate funding.

 “With the Spending Review just around the corner, and the National Disability Strategy just months away now, we hope that government will recognise that the right foundations of support, laid down in childhood, pave the way for inclusive, accessible futures for all disabled people, for life.”

The report comes just days after another report by ASK Research revealed that up to 20,000 children with SEND will be unable to return to school because of their medical vulnerability or their inability to socially distance.