'We shouldn't have to be here' - Parents of SEND children protest outside Devon County Council

  • Watch Richard Lawrence's report here.

Dozens of parents of children with special educational needs staged a protest outside of Devon County council today (8 February).

They say that children's services are in desperate need of improvement.

One parent, Claire Adams from Okehampton, said she was now having to homeschool all of her four children who require SEND support.

Claire said: "In the last twelve months, I've made five appeals, six formal complaints and nothing has changed."

The parents gathered together, writing and sharing their personal experiences and accounts.

Sarah Fowler said: "My placard says "when I'm at school, I feel like killing myself," that's the text message I got sent last time my daughter was at school and I'm just getting no support.

"As parents, we're just fed up of fighting now."

Eleanor Williamson, a parent from Tiverton told ITV News: "It's beautiful that so many people are here, but obviously it's disgusting that we have to be here.

"The very people who are our future, our children are being failed.

"We shouldn't have to be here."

The SEND service was rated inadequate by OFSTED and the care quality commission in 2018.

Last year, they were given the same rating, having not made any improvements pushing Councillor Rob Hannaford set up a task force to try and tackle the issue.

He said: "We've heard today some very heart-wrenching cases, very genuine cases that have been brought forward that should not have been waiting as long as they have been. It's a systemic failure from the county council."

Fellow members of the group, including Liberal Democrat Julian Brazil and Labour's Su Aves, said they were shocked by the scale of the varied problems encountered by parents.

"The whole of our task group was shocked by what we found. It really is a huge, huge problem," Cllr Su Aves told ITV News.

Campaign group Devon SEND Parents and Carers for Change organised today's protest. They say one of the biggest concerns amongst parents was a lack of communication, with some waiting months for replies to emails, or receiving no response at all.

The protestors gathered outside of the council with their placards and shared their personal experiences Credit: ITV News

Devon county councillors on the task group say they are determined to speed up improvements.

The campaign group handed a letter highlighting the failures to the interim director of children's services Julian Wooster who had previously lead an overhaul in Somerset.

He told the crowd that he was distressed by what he'd heard "It's very clear that we haven't provided the quality of services that you and your children deserve.

"I'm very distressed about the experience that parents and children have had about the support for them.

"We're really committed to improving children's lives and we haven't provided the good quality of services that parents or children are rightly entitled to."

He said extra funding has been found to try to recruit more staff to ease the caseload of the team but he said it wouldn't be a quick fix.