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England's Children's Commissioner calls for "radical reform" of SPED

Jan 31, 2024, CYPNow: Children's commissioner: Radical reform of SEND needed to end delays supporting children

Children’s commissioner for England Dame Rachel de Souza is calling for “radical reform” of the special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) system to ensure delays around support for families are addressed.

 She is particularly concerned that it is “still taking far too long” for children to get education, health and care plans (EHCPs), which are often needed to unlock support.

Even when approved, plans are blighted by delays in ensuring they are effectively reviewed and updated to consider children’s changing needs.

Another concern raised by de Souza is the increasing number of appeals made by families to challenge councils’ decisions around the plans.

Official figures released in December last year show a 24 per cent increase between 2022/23 and 2021/22 with 2,600 additional appeals launching during this period.

The number of appeals has increased every year over the last decade, the figures also show.  

Figures for 2020 to 2022 reveal almost all cases are found at least partly in favour of families

Reform of the SEND system needs to improve support for autistic children, adds de Souza.

While only a third of pupils with plans have autism, almost half of appeals lodged were related to support for autistic children.

This suggests “autistic children may find accessing support particularly challenging”, says de Souza in a blog post on her website.

She warns that under the current SEND system “children and their families are often having to chase an EHCP to get the support they need to thrive in school”.

A new system also needs to be better financed as currently “a lack of funding and resources means that health and education professionals are no longer well positioned to provide for the children in their area”….


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