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(UK) Oxford: $56M SPED deficit; 'demand far outstretches budget'

Nov 14, 2022, Oxford Mail: Councillor commits will address complaints over SEND provision https://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/23123164.councillor-commits-will-address-complaints-send-provision/

Central England

THE councillor overseeing children’s services in Oxfordshire has vowed that complaints over special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) provision will be looked into.

Parents and carers led a protest outside Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) last week to highlight problems with accessing services.

The council highlighted the nationwide issues in this area, including forecasts that show Oxfordshire will have a £47.3 million [$56M] SEND deficit by March 2023.

However, parents not only criticised the availability of provision but also the council itself.

Olivia from Oxford said there had been a “complete breakdown in communication” and that the county “makes it as difficult as possible to get through the EHCP (education, health and care plan) process”.

“They block, deny and ignore us, families are fed up with being ghosted while our children are abandoned by OCC without adequate care or support,” she said, also accusing the council of “refusing to accept evidence from external professional reports” and “cherry-picking evidence”.

“We are calling on the council to take action to help families to access the support we so desperately need,” she said.

“We want to see adversarial practices replaced with working collaboratively, we want to see legal timescales being adhered to and we want our children supported in a way that works for them.”

Ross from Uffington said his autistic daughter has been without an education for 18 months and had a “deteriorating state of mental health” prior to that while attending school part-time for “several years”.

He described “months of non engagement” from OCC and said he had been “forced to seek legal representation at significant cost”….

“The systematic use of unlawful practices and failure to engage not only with us but also with the legal process not only results in our daughter being left without an education but it also leads to increased trauma for her, delaying her recovery, potentially increasing and prolonging the high level of support she will need in the future. That will cost money….

“The demand far outstretches the budget we have for this work,” she said….

“If you have rising demand, you need staff in place to be able to respond. We have workforce issues right across social care, whether that is for children or adults, and that is something that may have (affected this) but we don’t know until we look at the details.

“It may be, for instance, that the professionals dealing with cases have had a different view to a parent on what is needed….

She highlighted the work of a “very active” forum of more than 800 parents, carers and children who were consulted on Oxfordshire’s reviewed SEND strategy and have influence over the implementation stage, plus a council-funded independent advice and information service….