As I read the issues of many parents through my work and on social media, it leaves me feeling depressed and frustrated by the state of SEND and the 2014 legislation (as it does for many, many people). As we come to the end of another year and with a General Election just behind us, it feels as though the struggle of children/young people with SEND and their families will continue for the foreseeable future. As with all SEND issues, the problems are complex with many different concerns across all areas. From lack of funding for Local Authorities and schools; poorly trained SEN Caseworkers (many are agency staff) with very little experience in SEND legislation and law; and inadequate advice from education, health and social care professionals that does not fully identify the needs of the child/young person (CYP) or recommend the provision they require to make progress.
Whilst I pride myself in writing good quality EHC Plans that provide detail, specification and quantification, this can only be achieved by utilising good quality professional advice. Writers cannot make it up - if we don't have the evidence then it can't be written into the EHC Plan! It is, after all, a legal document! I've read too many reports which fail to make clear the complex needs of the CYP. This is a fundamental reason for writing the report in the first place and leaves me (and many others I'm sure) questioning the reason why Local Authorities are accepting these reports and allowing them to form the basis of the EHC Plan. Many of these reports are so poor it renders them useless.
More than ever, parents are having to pay out for independent advice from private Educational Psychologists, Speech and Language Therapists, Occupational Therapy etc. This isn't cheap; in my experience for a CYP who has complex needs, parents will need to engage at least two or three independent professionals to carry out this work. This is achievable for parents who are able to afford to do this, but there are many parents who cannot, which unfortunately reinforces a very unfair system. In addition to this, for a CYP with medical needs (especially when they impact on access to education) the reports from health professionals, such as Paediatricians, need to be up to date enough to be used as evidence. With the NHS in crisis, this is not always an easy task as consultations/reviews become less frequent and many reports are delayed in being typed up and sent out. Many parents find themselves constantly chasing for reports which for example confirm a diagnosis or give details of the medical care required when the CYP is attending school.
So, the combination of a lack of adequate advice and an inexperienced EHC Plan writer, who is very pushed for time, results in a document that is invariably very poor and does not, in any way, serve it's purpose. Writing a good EHC Plan takes time and concentration, and you have to have a determination to include every bit of relevant information you can dig out from a report. The writer has to know what to look for and what needs to be included. Above all the writer needs to have a strong desire to make sure all of the CYP's rights are met. This is also true of all those professionals writing the reports, which brings us back to why so many parents seek independent advice.
What I've written here is one small part of the enormous problem with SEND. There are many layers to this topic and unfortunately I think it will take many years for the Dept of Education to focus on this and get it right. And who knows how long it will take for a failing system to recover enough to properly support CYP with SEND!
Most of the work I do currently is for parents. I work tirelessly for the rights of CYP with SEND. Please don't hesitate to contact me, even if you just want advice, which is free!
Wishing everyone a happy Christmas and a good New Year!