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(UK) Northants: Parents protest; 'epidemic' of kids "failed by the sytem"

Sept 7, 2023, BBC News: Parents of special needs children protest at Northamptonshire council HQ

E. Midlands

Parents have taken to the streets of Northampton to highlight what they call an "epidemic" of children with special needs being failed by the system.
They staged a protest outside the West Northamptonshire Council (WNC) offices in Angel Square.
The demonstrators said their children were being denied the education they were entitled to.

West Northamptonshire Council said it was working with parents, carers and partners to find solutions.

Among the frustrated parents of children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) at the protest was Steph Rocke.

She carried two placards, both showing the face of her 10-year-old son Alton.

Ms Rocke said: "My son is autistic, he has ADHD, he's dyslexic, he's dyspraxic.

"It has been a constant cycle of autistic burnout for him, he is not learning what he should be. [Mainstream school] is just not the right environment for him, unfortunately."

Ms Rocke said her son had not been in school since March.

The family paid to have assessments carried out privately so her son would be able to get an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), which would detail the help the council would have to provide.

Ms Rocke said that, initially, the council refused to provide an EHCP, but a plan did materialise when she threatened to appeal.

'No placements'

She said: "The content of the plan was horrible, it didn't even make any sense.

"There were no placements for him apart from the one school we knew would be able to meet his needs - it's fifteen minutes from us and it's a school for autistic boys."

Ms Rocke said she was told her son could not have a place there.

She said: "The whole thing makes you so angry - you just can't understand why the most vulnerable in our society are denied their statutory right to an education."

West Northamptonshire Council said: "We are working hard with parents, carers and partners to create real solutions for this, with the involvement of over 800 people, including families, helping to co-produce a new three-year strategy for improving these services."We have been able to implement solutions in the last year that are steps in the right direction, that will enable us to not only increase SEND places across our area but also address the growing demand for EHCP plans and support.

"An example of this is the significant investment into educational psychologists from this September to support with completing overdue assessments. "We are aware of the planned protest from a small group of parents and would encourage them to join the many other SEND families who are working together with us and our partners on tackling these challenges.


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