The number of parents/carers taking local authorities to tribunals in relation to support for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) has increased almost threefold over a five year period, according to figures collated by a national newspaper.
The Guardian obtained data from 7 local authorities (LAs) in England and Wales via Freedom of Information Act requests. The figures obtained were for the 2014/15 and 2018/19 academic years, and showed an increase of 176 per cent between the two time periods. LAs were taken to tribunals 3274 times in 2018/19 compared to 1186 times in 2014/15.
Commenting on the findings Sarah White, head of policy at Sense, a charity for people with complex disabilities, told the newspaper: ‘If children aren’t getting the support that they need, they’re potentially not able to attend school. Or, if they’re attending school, they might not be getting the level of support they need so that can have an impact on educational progress and potentially their ability to make friends and engage and take part in activities.’The government had faced a slew of criticism over the implementation of changes to the system of SEND support, which were introduced in September 2014. In September 2019 a report from the National Audit Office questioned the sustainability of the funding system for SEND, and noted that levels of per pupil funding had decreased in real terms. In October 2019 a report from the education select committee said that the implementation of the reforms had seen LAs ‘set up to fail’ while parents and carers had had to ‘wade through a treacle of bureaucracy, conflict, missed appointments and despair’. However, a group of parents who challenged the government’s funding of SEND at the High Court lost their case in November 2019, with the ruling saying there had been ‘no unlawful discrimination’. The Department for Education is currently carrying out a review of the SEND support system, however it is unclear when this will be completed.
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