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New research highlights barriers to SEND support

15 November 2022

Two new research reports have been published by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) and the Disability Policy Centre (DPC) exposing the barriers that Disabled young people are facing when trying to access reasonable adjustments and support in education. 

The ONS highlighted Disabled students' worsening experience of education, particularly the way in which this group was disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. 40% of parents or carers of pupils with SEND said that they were unable to access support they felt their child needed during the pandemic. 

Centering the lived experience of Disabled young people in their research, the ONS revealed a range of barriers that Disabled pupils face both educationally and socially. These included judgement from others, difficulty belonging, and feeling misunderstood. ONS research also identified various ways to improve a child's experience, including earlier identification and diagnosis, improved implementation of support, and better training for staff. The full ONS research report, including a Young People Friendly Version, can be found on its website.

This month the DPC also published its second major policy report: 'The State of the Nation in SEND Education: England'. This research found that: 

  • 46% of Disabled People had their disability undiagnosed throughout school.
  • 65% of Parents, Carers and Guardians 'had to fight' for their child's Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP).
  • In some Local Authorities, up to 100% of the pupils in the Pupil Referral Units / Alternative Provision settings were identified as having a Special Educational Need or Disability (SEND). 

The DPC's full report, including its key recommendations can be found on its website. 

Both of these research reports follow on from the Government's SEND Review earlier this year, which included unpopular proposals to put in place additional barriers to accessing support - for example, making it more difficult to access tribunals and having less choice over school settings. Disability Rights UK's response to that consultation, including more information on the current issues in SEND policy, can be found on our website.

Bethany Bale, DR UK Policy and Campaigns Officer, said: "The state of SEND provision in this country is in crisis and has been for some time. Disabled young people are consistently being refused access to a safe and accessible education, and this is clear in the poorer outcomes we see for Disabled students. The National Education Union found that there is currently a £2.1bn shortfall in SEND provision, and the Green Paper highlighted that less than 4% of those identified as having SEND have an EHCP.  Too many schools and local authorities are failing to uphold their legal obligations under the Equality Act and the Children and Families Act. The Government must urgently stop gatekeeping support for Disabled pupils and instead invest the resources needed to enable them to reach their full potential."