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(UK) Suffolk: Article blames 200% increase in SPED numbers on 2014 act

Dec 29, 2022, Ipswich Star: Investigation: The full story behind Suffolk's SEND crisis

SE England

In an exclusive interview with the East Anglian Daily Times, Suffolk County Council's corporate director of children and young people, Allan Cadzow, explains why SEND provision across Suffolk has had difficulties and what the future holds for the county.
In 2014, the Children and Families Act made it the duty of local authorities to provide for those with special needs.

"This created a huge surge in demand," said Mr Cadzow.

Since then, the Council says it has seen a 200% increase in applications for Education, Health and Care plans (EHCP), a legal document that describes a child's special educational needs and the support they need.

"We went from about 3,000 to now over 7,000," added Mr Cadzow.

"That is hard to satisfy and there has been huge pressure on the system.

"About a third of the children that get EHCPs require a specialist placement of some kind. "It's very hard to get children the places they want and sometimes we don't end up with a place for those particular families.

"It's very, very difficult.

"And people who have led the national SEND review say the act was well intentioned but very poorly implemented.

"Neither schools, local authorities or the health system were given the resources or time needed to implement the act."

The government has carried out reviews into SEND provision and acknowledged the act was struggling - subsequently announcing yearly increases to funding at a national level. …

"Meanwhile though, parents and families aren't getting what they think they're entitled to and that causes frustration for them.

"But it also causes a great deal of frustration for us as well because we want to do well for these families."

The council officer also pointed to a shortage of workers in professions designed to assist children and young people with SEND - such as speech and language therapists and educational psychologists.

"I do think the system has improved compared to what it was before," he added. "But it still hasn't improved anywhere near enough."

Last year, a six-week review into Suffolk County Council's SEND services was conducted by experts from Lincolnshire.

The report concluded that weaknesses existed in a host of areas and made nine recommendations for future improvement. …

Kelly Smith, a single parent living in Beccles, has three autistic children, with two of them, both aged seven, attending a specialist school.

Until January of this year, they were in a severe learning disability school - despite the placement being identified as unsuitable in March 2020.

The children had to wait until September 2022 to find suitable education.

"We found out almost three years ago that they needed to go elsewhere," she said.

"But there were so many delays in the process that they didn't end up getting what they needed until this year.

"Now they're three years behind and have missed a crucial period in their development. "I don't know if they'll be able to claw that time back but they have to try.

"What we want from the council is an acknowledgement of these failures, an apology and then for them to make up for lost time. …

"The root cause of the problems with SEND in Suffolk is poor leadership and management in the council. Lack of proper data collection and management has crippled their ability to plan.

"Council leaders will often point to the ‘difficult national picture’ with SEND and the Government’s ongoing review. What they fail to note is that the key issue nationally with SEND is the failure of local authorities to comply with existing legislation and a lack of accountability for unlawful decision-making.

"Suffolk cannot go on with a situation whereby only the children whose parents have the resources to challenge Council decisions obtain proper SEND provision. Many of us have spent tens of thousands of pounds and months and years individually fighting the Council."

Mr Tomczynski concluded by calling for: "New leadership at director level and a proper independent investigation into unlawful SEND practices at the council."

Allan Cadzow, corporate director of children and young people at Suffolk County Council (Image: Suffolk County Council)


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