Children with SEND not getting enough support despite reforms

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Nearly five years on since the SEND reforms were introduced, children with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) are still not getting the support they need.

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A survey by I CAN and the RCLST found that one-in-ten parents are having to fight to get the support their child with SEND needs

Next month marks five years since the SEND reforms, which included the replacement of statements of special educational needs and learning difficulty with Education, Health and Care plans (EHC), came into force in England.

Introduced under the Children and Families Act 2014, the reforms were meant to make the system feel less adversarial for parents.

However, a survey of parents and carers of children and young people aged two to 25 with SLCN reveals that nine in ten are having to fight to get the support their child requires.

The survey of 241 parents and carers of children and young people, which was carried out by I CAN and the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT), also found that 80 per cent of respondents felt their child did not get enough support, impacting on their education (94 per cent), mental health (80 per cent), their family life (86 per cent) and their family finances (74 per cent).

It follows I CAN and the RCLST’s publication of the Bercow: Ten Years On – 1st anniversary update, which received a cross-Government response reaffirming its commitment to supporting children and young people with SLCN and acknowledging that there is more still to do.

In light of this, I CAN and the RCLST are calling on ministers to implement the following recommendations from the Bercow update:

  • Ensure that the SEND System Leadership Board, which will clarify and communicate the principles that should underpin SEND commissioning, has an explicit focus on SLCN.
  • Develop an evidence-based integrated pathway for children and young people with SLCN from birth to 25.
  • Ensure that the newly qualified teachers’ Early Career Framework curricula and training materials include knowledge and understanding of how to support speech, language and communication and how to identify and support SLCN.
  • Fund a national programme of training for education staff working with children and young people with SLCN.
  • Ensure that practitioners who work with children and young people in settings with a known high prevalence of SLCN – including those excluded from school, in care, in the justice system and with mental health needs, are trained to recognise and respond appropriately to communication needs.

In a joint statement Mary Hartshorne, director of impact at I CAN and Derek Munn, director of policy and public affairs at the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, said, 'The SEND reforms have gone some way to improve the lives of children with special educational needs, but we are still concerned that many children, young people and their families or carers are not getting the support they need. 

'The abiding principle of these reforms was to ensure that children and parents were at the heart of the decision making process, however we are still hearing from parents and carers of children and young people with SLCN that the SEND system is not equitable and the affects of a postcode lottery of support is having a detrimental affect on their family life.

'This is unjust and the publication of our joint statement, sets out how we believe the system could be improved.'

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