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SEND reforms have “failed to make system less adversarial for parents”

A key aim of the SEND (special educational needs and disability) reforms introduced in England five years ago – to make the system feel less adversarial for parents – has not been achieved in relation to children with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN), it has been claimed.

The reforms came into force as part of the Children and Families Act 2014.

Children’s communication charity I CAN and the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCLST) said there were “serious concerns that in this time support for children and young people with SLCN has not improved; in many areas it has worsened”.

A survey conducted by the two organisations found that nine out of ten families with children with SCLN reported having to fight to get support for their child.

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I CAN and the RCLST also said highlighted statistics on the number of appeals to the SEND Tribunal – in 2018 there were 6,023 SEND Tribunal appeals registered, an increase of 47% since 2014.

“This is not in the best interest of professionals, parents and carers, or children and young people. It is also having a big impact on the public purse with resources being diverted away from the children and young people who need help, to costly tribunals,” they argued.

I CAN and the RCLST said they strong supported the intentions of the reforms: to enable the participation of children and their parents in decision making, to improve early identification and intervention, and to increase collaboration between education, health and social care services.

“However, good intentions are not enough. More than 1,800 days since the reforms came into effect, many children and young people with SLCN are not getting the support they need. Data from the same survey of parents and carers found that 80% of respondents felt their child did not get enough support, which impacted on their child’s education (94%), their child’s mental health (80%), their family life (86%) and their family finances (74%),” they said.

The two organisations called on ministers to develop a cross-governmental strategy for children and young people. They also called on ministers in the Department for Education, the Department of Health and Social Care and the Ministry of Justice to implement the recommendations made in their report Bercow: Ten Years On – 1st Anniversary Update.

Last week the Government unveiled plans for an additional £700m for children with SEND in 2020/21, “so every pupil can access the education that is right for them, and none are held back from reaching their potential”.

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