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(UK) Birmingham: Council spends $12M fighting 1,626 SPED appeals



An independent review into Birmingham City Council's free information, advice and support service for parents of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), has found that the council has spent £10m fighting appeals and calls for “drastic action” to be taken.

The National Children’s Bureau (NCB) was commissioned by Birmingham City Council (BBC) in March 2022 to undertake a review of Birmingham Sendiass (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Information Advice and Support Services), after the Education Secretary issued a statutory direction on the council to improve its SEND services in October 2021.

According to the NCB report, completed six months ago but only now published in a redacted format, the service only complied fully with three out of 20 national minimum standards, and more than half of its operations were 'RAG-rated red', which means of serious concern.

This review, which started in March 2022 and reported to the SEND Improvement Board in July 2022, found “inadequacies” in the infrastructure, including “weak policies” and “lack of a service development plan”.

In 2020, out of a total of 236 tribunal appeals registered in the city, 201 families were represented by Sendiass, the report states. This compares with an average of 40 tribunal appeals in other areas, with only in a handful of cases represented by the local Sendiass service.

The estimated cost to the council of responding to and handling tribunal appeals was put at more than £10m [$12M] over seven years.
The report states: “BCC has had approximately 1,626 appeals registered since 1.9.2014 to 31.12.21 totalling an astonishing £10,092,435.70 which equates to half a new school.”

The report author stated: “From what I have come to understand, Birmingham Council as a whole has been in various states of disarray for many years possibly back to 1.1.2020 when Sendiass in its original form as Parent Partnership Service, was first established. In general, it is not ‘performing’ like any service nationally.”

The report calls for “drastic action” to be taken, given the overall non-compliance with the minimum standards….

Meanwhile, parents of children with special educational needs in Birmingham have recently set up a petition to 'save our Sendiass’ and have taken to the streets to campaign.

Responding to concerns, McCarthy said: “We understand families' concerns about the future of the service but it is clear that it must become compliant. However, we want to assure families that there are no plans to stop the family support work that is so valued.

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