Here to help with questions relating to learning disability and its impact on family carers
1) On Tuesday 12th Feb. Vince Cable (Lib Dem) introduced a Westminster Hall Debate amongst MPs by moving the seemingly innocuous motion ‘that this House has considered special educational needs and disabilities funding’. This was an opportunity for MPs to a) consider the evidence on SEN funding taken by the Education Committee last October and b) express their concerns on the issue (clearly based on their interaction with their constituents). The depth of the crisis in SEN provision and funding was, as Vince Cable noted, reflected in the number of MPs who wished to speak.
A transcript of the debate is available here . Personally I would recommend that you read the entire transcript. There are some revealing figures cited on expenditure and costs, especially the extra costs to schools for provision, and the costs of parental appeals. But look out especially for a key exchange between Ruth George (Labour) and Vince Cable on the rising level of exclusions and its root cause.
2) On Thursday 14th Feb. these issues were taken up in The Lords, when Lord Addington (Lib Dem) moved ‘to ask Her Majesty’s Government what is the cost to (1) parents, and (2) local authorities, of appealing education, health and care plan decisions.’ Lord Agnew of Oulton replied for the Government. A transcript of this short debate is available here .
The focus was on the cost (financial and other) of SEN tribunals. One statistic suggested, and not refuted by the Government’s spokesman, was that the tribunal appeal process on average would cost a local authority £10,000 and parents £6000; and that as a consequence the appeals system favoured parents who had the money and resources to play the system.” …local authorities are having to fork out nearly £10,000 for each of these appeals and that parents are having to fork out over £6,000.’Tiger’ parents are winning nine out of ten of these appeals. Would the Minister care to speculate on the situation of somebody who is on the minimum wage, who cannot afford to spend £6,000 and who does not know how to deal with local bureaucracy, perhaps through having the same educational problems as their child? How well will they cope with this system?” (Lord Addington).
It was also depressing, but unsurprising to me, to read that ‘autism accounts for the highest proportion of all claims at about 43%(!) of appeals’. ‘Replying on behalf of the Government to questions on this statistic, Lord Agnew of Oulton promised: “We are very much focusing on this as an area of concern. In December last year we announced a number of measures to help deal with this, including joining up the healthcare and education services to address autistic children’s needs holistically, developing diagnostics services to diagnose autism earlier, improving the transition between children and adult services so that no young people miss out, and improving the understanding of autism and all its profiles, including recently identified forms such as pathological demand avoidance.” Joined-up provision, holistic care, earlier diagnosis, improved transition: these are lofty ambitions, which have been mentioned before and have proved hard to deliver, We live in hope…