Disability charities and organisations are calling on the government to rethink some of the proposals made in the latest special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) green paper.
In total, 50 charities signed a letter to the education secretary, Nadim Zahawi, and the health secretary, Sajid Javid, expressing concern that some of the plans could damage disabled children’s education and development.
- Further reading: What are the new SEND reforms and why do they matter?
The charities say that some of the plans will “have the opposite effect” to the paper’s stated intentions and will instead “restrict families with disabled children from getting services and create extra barriers in an already burdensome system.”
Some proposals risk worsening an already broken system
While the disability organisations recognise and agree with the “vast majority” of the problem analysis in the paper, they urge the Secretaries of State to reconsider three of the core proposals.
Firstly, the letter argues that families should not be made to choose a school from a pre-defined list as this will restrict choice and prevent young people from accessing the school that’s best for them.
In addition, access to support should be based on individual need and should not rely on a banding system, as this risks the generic grouping of conditions rather than the consideration of individual cases.
Finally, mediation should not be made mandatory as this will add yet another barrier to an already laborious process.
On top of these suggestions, the letter says it would also like to see the paper answer the “biggest issue for many families”: how are councils, schools, the health service and others going to be held to account if they don’t meet their legal duties?
Currently, the charities argue that the green paper does not address the issue, and they would now like to see additional measures put in place to increase accountability and prevent thousands of families from going to tribunal every year.
Legislation will be “detrimental” if it goes through unchallenged
The signatories are now urging the public to support their calls and take part in the consultation on the paper, which is open until July.
Linda Cantrill, 52, mum of seven-year-old twins Teddy (who has autism) and Reddington (who has complex needs including visual impairment), from Exmouth, Devon has joined the charities’ calls.
She said the legislation will be “detrimental” if it goes through unchallenged, and urges the public not to let the government reduce the rights that families currently have.
She added: “We may no longer have access to support for our children or the chance to choose the best school to meet our children’s needs. We might have yet another gatekeeper standing in our way to take services to Tribunal. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve our children’s lives not make them worse.”