Feb 2, 2024, BBC News: Parents unable to work due to special school delays
Two mothers from Leeds say they have been forced to give up their jobs to care for their autistic children due to a lack of specialist school places.
Heather said her 11-year-old daughter has been out of education since July 2023, while Vicky called for autism assessments to be speeded up to prevent children missing "a massive amount" of their education.
The two women spoke out as a new report by former Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield said waits for an assessment had risen by more than 300% since the pandemic.
The government said it had increased funding for special and alternative provision places, but said it was aware there was "more to do".
Heather said she and her husband had first tried to get help for their daughter, Abigail, when she was four.
However, she said it took until she was nine to finally got an autism assessment and diagnosis.
She said it then took another 51 weeks for her Education Health Care Plan (EHCP) to come through, despite legislation stating plans should be finalised within 20 weeks….
Vicky has also had to give up her job in a bank to care for her nine-year-old daughter, Lily.
She said Lily had been non-verbal until she was six, though she said she had managed to get her an autism diagnosis and an EHCP.
However, she said the situation had got worse when it became clear her daughter needed to move from a mainstream school and there were not enough places at a specialist school for her….
A joint report from Centre for Young Lives and Child of the North said the system was under "unsustainable pressure".
It found a 27% rise in new autism referrals in September 2023 compared with September 2022.
Centre for Young Lives chair Ms Longfield: "The autism assessment crisis is leaving thousands of children without the support they need and parents having to battle their way through a nightmare process that can take years to resolve."
Leeds City Council's deputy leader Jonathan Pryor said the council had increased the number of EHCP's in 2023, but admitted they were still behind.
He said the council faced a drop in funding and income at the same time it was seeing demand "going through the roof".
"The government say they are giving more money than ever before to education which is true, but there ar e also more children than ever before," he added.
A spokesperson for the Department for Education previously said it was increasing funding by 60% for special and alternative provision places to £10.5bn i[$13.2B] n 2024.
They added: "Every child deserves to have access to education that meets their needs.