Suffolk County Council admits SEND children have been let down

- Watch a full report from ITV News Anglia's Rob Setchell.

Suffolk County Council has admitted it has been letting children with special educational needs and disabilities down after a damning independent report into its services.

The report was written by a team from Lincolnshire, including Lincolnshire County Council and parent carer network, following a review of some SEND services commissioned by Suffolk County Council in June.

It found the council was "overwhelmed with requests for specialist provision" and that demand far outstripped supply.

Families were too often not allocated a case-worker and that communication was poor, meaning the process of accessing services was frustrating and confusing for families and led to children not getting the support they needed.

It also found that some pupils were still in a mainstream setting several years after the authority agreed that specialist provision was necessary. The SEND data that the council held was called "inconsistent and, at times, misleading" and evidence was found that the council was not complying with the law when children were placed in settings that were inappropriate for them. Possible data breaches were also highlighted, with schools describing receiving sensitive documents - in some cases about the wrong child.

For several families in the county, the findings of the report come as no surprise.

Last week, ITV News Anglia reported that parents were fighting to get their children proper provision for months on end.

James is 10-years-old and has autism and ADD Credit: ITV Anglia

Kerry-Ann Why's son James is 10. He has autism and ADHD.

He hasn't been in a classroom since the pupil referral unit near his home in Lowestoft closed in July.

It's taken a toll on his mental health. His mum says he isn't sleeping.

"Now if he's doing this at six, seven and eight what happens when he's 18, 19, 20," said Kerry-Ann.

"He's a very vulnerable person and without the right support he won't have a fulfilled life."

Charlene has the same fears for her autistic son, Ryan, who has been without a full-time school place for years.

He was ready to start one last week at Suffolk's Everitt Academy but it got scrapped at the last minute after an Ofsted report found serious safeguarding issues - including "unacceptably high" numbers of physical assaults.

The school says it has a plan to improve which has already begun to address the problems.

Today, Suffolk County Council apologised to families and said that they have a plan to improve services.

Sue Cook, Executive Director of People’s Services at Suffolk County Council, said:

Rachel Hood, Cabinet member for Education, SEND and Skills, at Suffolk County Council, said: "Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet commissioned this review after the May elections because of concerns that our SEND services were not performing well."

“We must learn from this report and implement fundamental change as quickly as we can.”

Despite this, and the council's nine-point action plan to improve - parents want real change now.