Derbyshire families back call for SEND changes amid national crisis

Derbyshire families hit by the crisis in Special Educational Needs and Disabilities support joined a national day of action in Matlock yesterday.

Friday, 31st May 2019, 2:10 pm
SEND special education needs campaigners at their protest picnic in Matlock

Around 60 parents, carers and children from across the county met for a campaign picnic in Hall Leys Park, as other SEND groups met in towns and cities up and down the country.

Organiser Nikola Matulewicz-Evans, who has given up her job and withdrawn her two children from school over issues arising from a lack of support, said: “It was brilliant for raising awareness and giving parents a chance to network and support each other.

“We had a few school governors and a teacher come to talk to us, and people who wanted to talk about their children’s experience.”

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Members of the Matlock Parenting Additional Needs group taking part in the SEND protest

She added: “Fighting to get support can be extremely unpleasant and frightening, and children are suffering. Here everyone felt safe and understood.”

The national campaign delivered a petition of 12,000 signatures to the Prime Minister, calling for increased spending on SEND and protection for that money in school budgets.

By some estimates, the funding gap for high-needs SEND was at least £287million last year and is projected to reach £1.6billion in the next two years.

Nikola said: “There is already money there for SEND but it is not being used properly because it isn’t ringfenced. Schools are underfunded and maybe they need a new roof or something. These children are not always a priority.

“Some schools are in denial. They want to top the league tables and do well at Ofsted inspections, and that’s not really SEND-friendly. It’s too competitive.”

She added: ”There is a real lack of transparency in the system too.”

Half of all local area SEND services have been found to be failing, and appeals to the Special Educational Needs & Disability Tribunal have increased by 80 per cent in recent years.

Complaints to the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman about SEND have risen by 150 per cent since 2015, and 87 per cent of those have been upheld.

Nikola said added: “We are calling for an increase in funding to match needs; for it to be ringfenced; for improved monitoring and accountability to improve outcomes for every child; and for a single process which all local authorities must follow.

“This movement was started by three women last year. Now we have a network of parents all over the UK and we are forming a plan of action. We are going to continue this campaign.”

Derbyshire County Council’s head of children’s services, Jane Parfrement, has offered to meet with the group to discuss their concerns.