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(UK) Bedfordfordshire: 18 mo wait for special needs assessment; 4-5 wk wait after

Jan 15, 2024, Luton Today: Children with special needs wait over a year to see specialist doctor says Leighton Buzzard and Dunstable MP as he calls for more funding

North of London

Children with special needs in Leighton Buzzard and Dunstable are often waiting almost a year and a half before seeing a specialist doctor according to the towns’ MP.

Calling for more funding for SEND children in Central Bedfordshire, South West Bedfordshire MP, Andrew Selous, raised concerns about local special educational needs and disabilities provision in the House of Commons on Thursday.

He said: “Many—probably a majority—of the children who go on to need an education, health and care plan need to see a specialist doctor at our local child development centre, the Edwin Lobo Centre. The waiting list for that centre, which serves my constituents, currently stands at between 65 and 72 weeks. Once the appointment has taken place, there is often a delay of a further four to five weeks before the doctor’s report is received.

"All that takes place before the 20-week clock starts ticking, and in four out of five cases it will be missed anyway. That means that children are routinely waiting more than two years in either an inappropriate setting or a school where there is insufficient funding to properly meet their needs. For many younger children, that can represent a very large proportion of their school life, and leads to them missing out on those vital first few years….

“Like other local authorities, Central Bedfordshire Council benefited from recent increases in funding for special educational needs and disabilities, which was very welcome. Despite that, the council has had to vote a further £5 million [$6.3M] of additional funding to balance the books.”

Mr Selous said nearby Hampshire received around £786 [$993] more per child than Central Bedfordshire

“If that higher figure is good enough for children in Hampshire, it is good enough for the children I am proud to represent,” he said.

“It is clear to me that what is needed is what we tried to get back in 2014: a more joined-up approach to special educational needs and disabilities by the Secretary of State for Education and the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, to look at this issue in the round. When the Minister responds to the debate, I would be grateful if he could address my points about the differences in local authority funding, the waits in the health system, and what we can do to bridge the gap and get the care that these children need to be provided on a timely basis.”

Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust which runs the Edwin Lobo centre, has been approached for comment.


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