Mar 24, 2021, BBC News: SEND family spends £20k [$27K US] fighting for school place https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-56255272
Parents of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) say they are struggling to secure suitable school places for them. Anna Geldard spent £20,000 fighting for the Education, Health and Social Care Plan (EHCP) her child is entitled to. She said it was "so stressful" and the emotional impact was far greater than even the financial cost to her family. The government said the SEND system was under review and it had also increased SEND funding to £8bn [$11B] in 2021-22. An EHCP is a legal document that sets out the child's needs in these areas and the support they require. Some families struggle to obtain an EHCP however and feel intimidated by the "adversarial" and detailed legal process involved, parent-led campaigners Send Crisis group said…. Her daughter is autistic with developmental language disorder and specific learning difficulties in writing and spelling that Anna describes as a form of dyslexia…. Her daughter stopped attending classes in December 2019 when she was due to begin secondary school. In the end she missed a whole year, although this was partly due to waiting for a place at her chosen special school. The process was further complicated because after the EHCP had been obtained, Somerset County Council's educational psychologist recommended a mainstream school for her, a decision that Anna's family appealed against at tribunal. She said that she did not find it easy to raise the funds to fight the council psychologist's recommendation…. A spokesperson from Somerset County Council said it was "working hard and investing heavily" in the area…. Anna's frustration is shared by many other parents who feel they are "fighting a system" where local authorities are unwilling to pay for EHCP assessments and place a child in a special school. Emily Carr, from Kent, said: "My son has a diagnosis of autism and he really struggled in mainstream, he was overwhelmed by the size and the demands and the noise."… In total they spent about £10,000 [$14K] on private tuition, on top of the legal costs of securing an EHCP…. "The whole system really needs quite a serious overhaul it feels very, very adversarial with the local authorities. "They're looking for every reason possible to meet that legal requirement at the minimum possible costs they can get away with. "I don't blame them, I recognise that it comes from finance."… It is a brick wall other parents have contacted the BBC about; EHCP statements failing to be carried out within a 20-week time limit or schools and local authorities turning down requests to assess a child. Gemma Carlier, who now lives in Suffolk, said her family spent about £18,500 [$25K] to get an EHCP in place for her autistic son who is now 14. She said at the time the amount was "financially crippling". She lived in Essex when her son began struggling at school and she challenged Essex County Council's decision not to assess her son for an EHCP…. She said at one point he was being sent home and effectively excluded every day because he was "stressed and anxious he couldn't go into a classroom". She said she was then labelled as a "vexatious parent" for challenging the school…. A spokesperson for the council said: "Essex County Council is committed to ensuring that every child in the county has the support they need to meet their educational potential, and that they receive all the necessary support and resources to meet any special educational needs or disabilities." … "We've heard from parents who have remortgaged homes, sold family cars and even a wedding ring. "Those that can't raise the money for legal fees face inequality of representation. "Even so, 95% of tribunal decisions are in favour of families." The government spokesperson said it had increased its high needs funding by nearly a quarter to £8bn in 2021-22 and the "vast majority" of cases concluded without the need for a tribunal hearing. He added: "But we recognise that there remain some inconsistencies in the support provided around the country, which is why our SEND Review will look to ensure the SEND system is consistent, high quality, and integrated across education, health and care."