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England: $3.2B for special ed; over 60,000 MORE special needs places to be added


April 26, 2024, BBC News: Autistic girl's family to get £8k [$10K] for missed school 

The family of an autistic girl who was unable to attend school will be paid £8,000 by a council which “failed to provide alternative education”.


The Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman found Suffolk County Council took 18 months to create an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), despite pleas from the mother.


The council has apologised to the child and her family for the distress caused.

The Department for Education said it was providing £2.6bn [$3.2B] to support places for children with special needs or disabilities (Send) or who needed alternative provision.


The case comes after a report in January pointed out “widespread, systemic failings” in the council’s provision for children with special needs or disabilities.


The ombudsman said the young girl, who has autism, could not attend school between March 2022 and September 2023.


The investigation found the mother had made “numerous requests” for the council to provide an educational package for her daughter to study away from school.


It concluded that “adequate provision was still not put in place” and that the council took 18 months to produce the EHCP instead of the required 20 weeks.


The ombudsman's Ms Amerdeep Somal said: “The mother did all she could to get the council to do what they should. Even then, her daughter missed out on 18 months of education at a crucial time in her life because the council did not prioritise her needs." . . . 


The council will pay the mother a further £300 [$374] "to acknowledge the distress and anxiety she felt when dealing with the council", said the ombudsman.


A “priority action plan” is in place following January’s report, and the Department for Education is providing an extra £10.9 million [$14M] for Suffolk to create “new specialist places” for children with Send. . . .


The ombudsman also pointed to “wider national systemic problems” with Send provision, saying: “There are significant problems across the country requiring national attention and policy change to ensure children are supported.”


A Department for Education spokesperson said it had an "ambitious" Send and alternative provision improvement plan in place.


“We are providing £2.6bn [$3.2B] to support the creation of places for children and young people with Send or who require alternative provision, so parents can be reassured that their child will receive the right support at the right time, near home," the spokesperson said.

"Combined with the special free schools programme, this is creating over 60,000 new specialist places across the country.”


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