LibLink: Vince Cable: Ministers must properly address the Special Educational Needs and Disability funding crisis

Vince Cable is holding a Westminster Hall debate on funding for special educational needs and disability this afternoon.

In an article for Politics Home, he outlines the impact on families when they don’t have the support that they need…

A single mum in a small flat with a child who needs constant attention while she tries to look after other children, and hold down a job to make ends meet; a couple who have sacrificed careers, holidays and a social life to care for a child with severe, complex needs, seeing the child growing up to an adulthood of continued dependence while they themselves are ageing and their own relationship is falling apart. There are numerous variations of these.

Of course, there are also happier stories.  Stories where support provided in school or via the local authority or health service makes all the difference.  But for every family who does not get the support they need, there is an unacceptable impact for parents and children alike.

Local authorities are under huge financial stress, however:

At a human level a painful conflict results between parents who want the best for their children (and have the law on their side) and local authorities who want to do their best but are under financial stress after years of painful cuts. More and more requests for EHCPs are being declined or delayed, and funding cuts have led to reductions in the specialist teachers and educational psychologists who provided expert advice to schools teaching SEND pupils. Rationing has taken the form of foot-dragging over ‘statements’, now ‘care plans’.  And attempts to mandate adequate local schooling rather than what parents consider to be superior specialist schools, often leading to tribunals, with additional cost, emotional stress and anger.

So is it just a question of more money?

But across the country, the Local Government Association has warned that the combination of budget cuts and rising demand is leading to children with SEND being turned away from mainstream schools, because councils’ lack the ability to provide extra help to those who need it. And while mainstream schooling will not be the right path for every child with SEND, this decision should always be a genuine choice based on the individual needs of parents and their children, not something they are pushed into because funding is not sufficient to support a child in the setting they choose.

You can read the whole article here. 

 

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One Comment

  • Nigel Jones 13th Feb '19 - 6:43pm

    I hope as chair of the LDEA I can send a message about SEND. Vince is spot on to raise the subject of SEND in schools. He rightly shows in his article that it is wrong to blame local authorities and schools for the current difficulties. The rising need is partly due to better diagnosis and partly the increase in the number of children born in this ‘category’. There are two points to add.
    First, their needs are not helped by the pressure on schools to perform academically and to have strictly applied behaviour policies. This sometimes creates extreme tensions for teachers between care of the individual and overall classroom performance.
    Second, in some areas, such as dyslexia, there are children whose needs are not so great that they are categorised as SEND, yet need special attention. A piece of work by Warwick University has recently criticised the sharp line drawn, because sometimes in practice people are of different shades of need at different times in their education. Unfortunately, Warwickshire council has seized on this as an opportunity to try to find ways of justifying a reduction in spending on SEND because, of course they are short of money.

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