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SEN | A week in Review 30th November - 6th December 2020

  1. The BBC looked at the ongoing concerns over the ‘invisibility of vulnerable children’ during the pandemic. Concerns have been raised many times since the start of the pandemic that with so many children out of school, early warning signs of abuse and neglect may have been missed by teachers. Although many schools remained open during lockdown for both children of key workers and also vulnerable children, it has been reported that many eligible families did not send their children into school. FULL ARTICLE HERE. 
  2. Looking at the effect on children who have been placed in secure care and their families who have been separated from them due to the pandemic, the Guardian published an insightful article after speaking to some of the families concerned. Many children in the secure care placements, have been used to regular weekly visits from family have now become more anxious and isolated, with more restraint, seclusion and segregation being used to deal with the children’s increasing anxiety. For children who are unable to understand the reason for the separation, an already difficult and unfamiliar time is being made even the more difficult. FULL ARTICLE HERE. 
  3. A coalition of 80 charities are warning that children’s long-term development is being severely affected by the pandemic. The BBC reported that of the 3,400 families they heard from, 800 of them said that their disabled child was still not back in school full time. With the Department of Education saying that “the education, health and wellbeing” of students with additional needs remain a top priority. FULL ARTICLE HERE. 
  4. Following a quadrupling between 2015 – 2020 in the number of learners in Further Education with special educational needs and disabilities, a joint report has been published calling for a “radical” shake-up of the “overly complicated” high needs FE system . One of the key factors influencing the increase is likely due to the Children and Families Act 2014 which extended EHCP eligibility up to the age of 25 – which in turn has brought more people into the FE system. In order to support these students the ‘shake up’ needs to reflect this increase in numbers. FULL ARTICLE HERE. 
  5. Over the weekend, the Guardian highlighted that almost 90% of English councils overspent on their budgets for children with special needs last year. With an overall funding gap of £643m already putting special needs teaching at risk, it is also predicted that the overspending will continue in 2021. As the ‘chronic underfunding’ from central government continues, does this mean that more children needing the additional help will be left without adequate support? FULL ARTICLE HERE. 
  6. A decision has been published this week concerning the London Borough of Hillingdon, called . The local authority were in dispute with the mother of a child with SEN. In particular, there was disagreement regarding the content of a draft EHCP. The mother agreed to attend mediation, but said that she wanted her lawyer present. The local authority refused to engage in the mediation process unless the mother agreed to attend without her lawyer. Surprisingly, they maintained this argument throughout proceedings which were issued in the form of judicial review. Ms Kumar, the child’s mother, sought the court’s agreement that it was unlawful for Hillington to refuse to allow her lawyer to accompany her to mediation. The court agreed that this decision was unlawful. Paragraph 31 of the judgement, in particular, is worth repeating in full as it accurately reflects the challenges parents face in respect of the SEND scheme: 

Although the [Children Families] Act makes local authorities an important part of the solution to the needs of families with vulnerable children, it requires them to be mindful of the inevitable risk that they become, or are seen to become, part of the problem. Local authorities have huge powers over the lives of families with children who have special needs, making decisions with potentially lifelong consequences. Where parents are unhappy with those decisions, there is a fundamental and frightening inequality of power. That is why there is not only a legal right of appeal, and a legal right to independent mediation, but also a legal right to have someone there for moral support in whatever way a parent wishes – emotional strength, help with understanding what is going on, or help with articulating what they want to get across. Parenting a child with special needs is demanding enough; disputing with a local authority is daunting for the most confident and best-equipped parent; the right to have a supporter is just that. It does not matter who they are, lawyer or not. It is none of the local authority's business.

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