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(UK) Lincolnshire: Parent fights for special school place despite 500 new places

Nov 13, 2023, ITVX: Lincolnshire mum petitions for change after spending life savings on SEND school battle https://www.itv.com/news/calendar/2023-11-13/mum-petitions-for-change-after-spending-life-savings-on-special-school-battle

E. England

A mother from Lincolnshire is calling for urgent change to the special educational needs system after a five-year battle to get her daughter into a special school.

Lilly Andrews, 12, has Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and Sensory Modulation Disorder and her parents felt from the age of six that education in mainstream school was not appropriate for her.
Lilly's mother, Emma, who lives near Sleaford, says local authority officials - despite never meeting Lilly - disagreed with the family and decided her needs could be met in a mainstream setting.

The family successfully appealed the decisions made by Lincolnshire County Council in the Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan, with a tribunal finding in the family's favour.

Emma told ITV News: "We had a huge battle getting her the support that she needed. All the paperwork was completed, all the evidence was there, she was attending occupational therapy, she had extra time during school….

Emma had to quit her job to focus on the five-year legal battle. Now, she wants to prevent the same thing from happening to other families.

She said: "The whole process was awful and took a massive toll. I couldn't be that true parent for my boys while fighting for Lilly, which is time we'll never get back….

Lincolnshire County Council said there are currently around 7,300 children with active EHC plans and very few appeal the council's decision:

"We always work to resolve any difference of opinion with those that do. As a result, last year our appeal rate was only 1 percent, meaning it is very rare for these applications to go to tribunal.”

"Over the last few years, the county council has invested £100m [$124M] to improve Lincolnshire special schools, creating over 500 additional places," it added.

Statistics published by the Ministry of Justice show that in the academic year 2021/22, there were 11,000 registered appeals in relation to SEN, an increase of 29% when compared to the previous year.

Of the cases decided, 96% were in favour of the parents, carers and young people.

Emma has launched a petition calling for responsibility for assessing children and developing EHC plans to be removed from local authorities, and instead put in the hands of an independent body staffed by specialists.

In a statement, the Department for Education said: "The vast majority of education, health and care needs assessments and plans are concluded without the need to resort to tribunal hearings, but we know that the system needs to work better for parents."…

The statement continued: "The Government's high needs funding for those with complex needs is rising to £10.5 billion [$13B] in 2024-25 – an increase of over 60% since 2019-20, alongside investment of £2.6 billion [$3.2B] in high needs capital over this Spending Review and doubling the number of special free school places to 19,000 once those in the pipeline are complete."

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