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(UK) Northern Ireland: More than 1,000 students wait up to 2 years for special ed assessment

Mar 4, 2020, NI Belfast Live: Special Educational Needs assessments under Stormont spotlight over big delays Children waiting to be assessed for special educational needs help have been kept waiting as long as two years, a Stormont committee heard today. Under scrutiny from the Assembly's Education Committee senior managers at the Education Authority admitted delays being faced by hundreds of children are "unacceptable" and have "caused distress". School kids are supposed to be 'statemented' within 26 weeks, thereby paving the way for additional support to be provided to the children and staff teaching them. But at one stage more than 1,000 young people had been waiting longer, with EA bosses today admitting some had gone "more than 100 weeks" without being assessed. The figure is now down to 676, however the authority was unable to give an estimate to MLAs as to when it will be reduced to zero. There are currently 22,000 children in Northern Ireland who are 'statemented'. Asked how many children have been waiting longer than 100 weeks, the EA told Belfast Live it was 20. EA Chief Executive Sara Long, who was appointed to the post late last year, told the committee the body's "immediate priority" is to deal with children who have been waiting the longest. However, she warned that to "address the backlog" in the immediate future they "will require additional funding". The Education Authority in Belfast Daniel McCrossan, an SDLP MLA who sits on the committee, used words like "chaotic" and "dysfunctional" in describing the EA, adding that "children have been failed" by the delays…. Speaking after the meeting, the Committee Chairperson, Chris Lyttle MLA said: "The findings of the Education Authority's internal audit process underlines what can only be described as an appalling and distinct lack of managerial oversight and good governance. "The Committee as a whole has been shocked and disheartened by what it regards as a culture of disorganisation and reactivity. Statutory timescales should always be adhered to. They are there to ensure that our most vulnerable children receive the urgent help and support they require and are entitled to….

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