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(UK) NI: Parents have to 'fight for support' when requests for SPED help denied

Mar 9, 2023, BBC News NI: Parents of special needs children 'face fight for support'

Some parents have said they face a "fight from day one" to get Education Authority (EA) support for children with special educational needs (SEN).

BBC News NI has learned the EA has conceded about two-thirds of cases brought to an independent tribunal by parents of children with SEN.

The information came in a response to a freedom of information request.

The EA said it knew it must do better to improve children's outcomes.

Parents and schools can appeal to a tribunal if the EA refuses to assess or statement a child.

The Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST) deals with appeals where parents or schools say that the EA is not dealing with a child's special educational needs appropriately.

If a parent thinks their child is having difficulty in school and may need extra support they can request that a formal assessment of their needs is carried out by the EA.

Following an assessment, a statement is then a legal document which sets out a child's needs and the support they should have in school.

In 2022-23, so far the EA has conceded in 207 out of 311 cases where parents or schools appealed the authority's decisions about an assessment or statement for a child.

The SENDIST tribunal dismissed the appeal on fewer than five occasions.

The majority of the other appeals were withdrawn, which is likely to mean the EA and parents reached agreement prior to a tribunal hearing taking place….

"Without a statement it falls on to the school's shoulder to find a way to help the child," Ms O'Hanlon said.

A spokesperson for the EA said transforming its special educational needs and disabilities support system was an "absolute priority"….

According to the separate response to BBC News NI's Freedom of Information request from the Department of Justice, which runs the SENDIST tribunal, the EA has also conceded the majority of appeals lodged with the tribunal in previous years

. In 2021-22, the EA conceded in 178 out of 330 cases brought to the tribunal, with only 11 appeals dismissed.

In 2020-21, the EA conceded 183 out of 280 cases brought to the tribunal, with only seven appeals dismissed.

Tracy McEntee said it was stressful trying to get her daughter Erin's needs assessed


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