SEND services in Suffolk face independent review following criticism from families

It comes after families wrote to the council and said their children were not being given the support they were entitled to Credit: PA

An independent review into special educational needs and disability (SEND) services in Suffolk is to be launched following criticism from families.

Parents and carers said in a letter to the council that they feel they have been failed by the county and that their children are not receiving the support they are entitled to.

They said they are having to fight the council to get EHC plans - a required document that sets out what provision a child needs - and that many families are being refused them, meaning they are forced to take the county to a tribunal.

They also said that many children with special needs are being excluded from school, rather than being provided with support, forcing parents to home educate.

The letter contained family testimony, including the parents of a 10-year-old autistic boy who say their child was isolated in one room and not allowed to mix with other children, and another parent who was told her non-verbal child needed to 'ask for help'.

Suffolk County Council confirmed yesterday that the way parents and carers are communicated with will face immediate review.

The review will be carried out by a senior professional who they say has no links to or involvement with Suffolk's provision.

The review will determine if current systems in place at the county are sufficient.

Councillor Rachel Hood, Suffolk County Council’s newly appointed cabinet member for education, SEND and skills and Conservative councillor said:"I know that every parent and carer wants the best for their children, especially when it comes to education and care. Suffolk County Council want the same and must strive to provide the very best services we can.

Cllr Rachel Hood, Conservative Credit: Suffolk County Council

"The findings of this immediate independent review will help us to understand our strengths and weaknesses and identify any changes that need to be made. We are approaching matters with an open mind and with the best interests of children, their parents and carers at heart."The way in which SEND provision is delivered with our partners has improved significantly over the last 18 months, but we must always work to improve what we do, especially when we are faced with increasing demand for special educational support."I am newly appointed to this Suffolk County Council cabinet portfolio and am determined to build on the progress that has already been made. It is important to recognise that significant reform and improvement has taken place recently and that further improvements can take time, but SEND provision is one of our main priorities for this year. This urgent review will build on existing achievement, and offer insight for further improvement."The specific scope of the review is also being finalised, but is expected to look at:

  • The effective flow of cases

  • Communication with young people and families 

  • Processes for dealing with incoming enquires from young people and families in a timely manner

  • A focus on the family-facing elements of the service

  • The allocation of provision and where appropriate placement in a timely way for children

Anne Humphrys, Co-Chair of Suffolk Parent Carer Network, said:

Anne Humphreys, Co-Chair of Suffolk Parent Carer Network Credit: ITV Anglia

In Suffolk nearly 18,000 young people are supported in some way through local SEND services, including 5,900 with Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs).