The Letter

Dear Prime Minister,

We are an alliance of disabled people, national and local charities, parent/carer groups, human rights groups, academics and individuals that support the rights of disabled children and young people. We are writing to you to highlight the difficulties that disabled children and young people are currently facing in accessing an education and to outline our concerns about the cross government SEND Review. 

On 6th September we launched the Let Us Learn Too campaign. Disabled children and young people should be able to access an education that meets their needs and supports them to learn, be happy, and succeed on their own terms. We invite you to watch the video and support Ellie-Mai’s call for an education that has her, and all disabled children and young people, in mind.

In 2019, the Education Select Committee’s SEND Inquiry report painted a devastating picture of the state of SEND provision and since then the situation has deteriorated further (see attached evidence). Disabled children and young people have been disproportionately disadvantaged by the impact of Covid and school/ college closures. 

The current cross government SEND Review was initiated, and its scope subsequently widened, to address these issues. However, we have serious concerns about the way it is being conducted. The SEND Review has taken almost two years so far and has been delayed three times. Moreover, there has been little transparency about who has contributed to the Review. Disabled children, disabled young people and their parents/carers should have been at the heart of this vital work, but so far, other than through the National Network of Parent Carer Forums (which, whilst doing a very good job, cannot, and does not, present as being the sole representative voice of parents, carers and young people with special educational needs) those most directly affected have been largely excluded and even misrepresented. If this continues there is a significant risk of repeating the implementation mistakes of the 2014 reforms. 

We simply cannot stand by and allow this to happen. For positive change to occur it’s vital that our views and experiences are heard and acted upon and that we are fully involved in decisions that could have life changing consequences for us. We therefore ask that you: 

1. Don’t weaken the law 

We agree with the Education Select Committee’s recommendation in the SEND Inquiry report that the Government should resist the temptation to weaken or water down legal duties. The recent refusal of Children and Families Minister Vicky Ford to confirm that the government will

maintain all existing legal entitlements for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) has been the cause of considerable unease. 

It’s only seven years since the Government made changes to SEND legislation, following extensive research and consultation. These changes built on existing rights for disabled children and young people. Weakening these rights before giving them a fair chance to succeed through proper implementation and support would undo decades of protection and progress. 

We have already seen the destructive consequences of the temporary weakening of legal duties under the Coronavirus Act 2020 and related legislation. Disabled children and young people lost essential special education provision and support, which damaged their mental and physical health, undermined their educational outcomes and left some children and young people unable to access education at all. 

2. Improve accountability 

Widespread lack of accountability is one of the main reasons the current system is failing, and without improvement whatever follows will fail too. The SEND Review needs to prioritise strengthening accountability measures, including close monitoring of the sufficiency and performance of local authorities’ specialist support services. 

There must be urgent intervention and robust consequences when individuals or organisations fail to meet their legal duties to disabled children and young people or discriminate against them. Disabled children and young people and their families also require fair access to independent legal advice and support. 

3. Monitor effective use of funding 

The SEND Inquiry report identified the significant shortfall in funding as a serious contributory factor to the failure on the part of schools, colleges and local authorities to meet the needs of children and young people with SEND. We appreciate that the Government has since increased the size of the High Needs Block. Regrettably this funding has been used primarily to reduce existing local authority deficits resulting from inadequate funding for the 2014 reforms. 

In order to address the disadvantage disabled children and young people are currently experiencing in accessing education it’s essential that SEND funding is sufficient and effectively ring-fenced, the way it is used and its effectiveness is monitored, and budget holders are made accountable.

4. Invest in inclusion and early support 

Too often provision and support for disabled children and young people is delayed until they reach crisis point, causing distress and long-term damage. Schools and colleges must be adequately funded, resourced and supported to be inclusive, with appropriate, early (and where necessary intensive) provision put in place to meet the needs of all disabled children and young people and support them to achieve their ambitions. This investment would benefit disabled and non-disabled children and would be a more effective use of funding than the current cycle of exclusion, crisis intervention and deficit reduction. 

We urge you to take immediate and effective steps to improve outcomes for disabled children and young people and to intervene to change the trajectory of the SEND Review, ensuring transparency and meaningful engagement with disabled children and young people and their parents/carers as equal partners throughout, not as an afterthought when key decisions affecting our future have already been made. 

We would welcome the opportunity to discuss this further. Please could you ask your senior policy officials to be in touch to acknowledge receipt of this letter, and the process to be adopted in taking on board our appeal to you. 

We look forward to your response. 

Yours sincerely,

Piers Morgan, Celia Walden, Sam Bailey, David Mitchell, Norman Lamb, Lord David Blunkett, Olivia Blake MP, Emma Hardy MP, Caroline Nokes MP, Ian Byrne MP, Ed Davey MP, Mick Whitely MP, Barbara Keeley MP, Andrew Gwynne MP, John McDonnell MP, Disabled Children’s Partnership, National Autistic Society, Disability Union, World of Inclusion, SEND Community Alliance, IPSEA, SOS! SEN, National Children’s Deaf Society, Ambitious About Autism, School Inclusion Project, SEND Action, Disabled Students UK, Cllr Jonathan Bartley, SEND National Crisis Buckinghamshire, National SEND Crisis Herfordshire, Blooming Genius CIC, DSUK, SCOPE, Positive About Down Syndrome, Down Syndrome Association, Bristol SEND Community Alliance, Define Fine, East Sussex ImPACT, Liverpool SEND Crisis, Parent Carer Foundation – 1151503, Sutton Parent Carer Forum, Stephen Fry, Professor Tom Shakespeare FBA CBE, Anna Kennedy OBE, Carrie Grant MBE, David Grant MBE, Sean Kennedy, Tylan Grant, Olive Grant, Make A Pathway, The PACE Centre, PACT Suffolk, The PDA Society, Tourettes Action, Special Needs Jungle, SeeAbility, Dorset Parents Campaign Group for SEND, No Magic Wand UK, SEND National Crisis Berkshire, Waltham Forest Send Crisis, Hackney Special Educational Crisis, Campaign For Change (Suffolk SEND), Autism In Motion, Not Fine In School, Square Peg, Playwise, Wouldn’t Change A Thing, World of Inclusion

If you would also like to sign please do so here:

https://www.change.org/p/prime-minister-please-do-not-weaken-the-laws-for-children-and-yp-with-special-educational-needs

22 thoughts on “The Letter

  1. I cannot begin to imagine how distressing it is to have a disabled child or young adult, being prevented/denied from having the education they need & deserve – it is a human right. All children are equally valuable ♥️

    Like

    1. My daughter is 9. She desperately wants to go into school but has asd and her anxiety is so high she struggles just to get into the building. Far more help is needed to concur her anxiety!
      An adult wit anxiety can be off work sick yet it is expected that a 9 year old be in school regardless. Things need to change and it’s the government’s responsibility to help our children!

      Like

  2. My child who is 15, hasn’t been to school since Dec 18, and has various conditions, one being ADHD. I have been fighting well over a year for an EHCP. The local authority, have made it difficult, didn’t attend, hearing, send paperwork etc. I have been waiting over 5 month for this to be reheard by a salaried judge, because of an error of law. Professionals who have never even spoken to my child have made reports and it is based on words of a CAMHS worker who twisted my child’s words 2 years ago. And my childs medical file, which I have a letter from Data protection that a breach has occurred.
    I have written to Boris Johnson, and other members, to receive a letter on there behalf saying this government only deal with NHS and ADULTS.
    I am now fighting a PLO, because of lies that I can prove.
    I have a 35&26 year old and never had social services involvement. How ever what has changed is Jan 19, I was diagnosed with ADHD, and Sept 19 Autism, hence now I can’t parent.
    This government are not interested in anyone with additional needs, and there certainly no laws to protect us

    Like

  3. Councillor Clare McIntyre – we must ensure our children and young people are supported to reach their potential, enjoy school and are cared for,

    Like

  4. My son is only in the early stages of school refusal but has been denied help with his mental health from every avenue so far. His referral for autism has been delayed by 12 months because of a school who couldn’t complete paperwork efficiently. He is being let down by the system.

    Like

  5. My son has selective mutism and other complex needs he has covid related anxiety hasnt been in school since March 2020.He also has severe anxiety due to his selective mutism.Referred to cahms but no response at all.This is my son mental health we are talking about time this government stood up and helped sen children

    Like

  6. Please take care of these wonderful children. They go through so much that is unessacary because the government don’t give the funds and support required

    Like

  7. What an absolute scandal that this is even an issue EVERY DISABLED CHILD MUST recieve full education and facilities without question. That this is not the case is disgusting discrimination.

    Like

  8. Support our children. My son is 12 and struggling still to cope in a mainstream setting. School have been putting barriers in the way of him getting the help he so needs. Only now are they starting to listen to me and admit my sons needs aren’t and won’t be met there.

    Like

  9. Our 13yr old daughter is in recovery from an ED due to the anxiety she experienced in mainstream school.

    She started at secondary school with known SEND but she was never provided with any intervention/support. Resulted in her developing an ED. School have at best been incompetent and at worst negligent. They are acting unlawfully and it needs to stop!

    Our daughters is not currently accessing school due to her anxiety yet no suitable alternative provision has been offered.

    And as for our LA’s involvement in our EHCP application, where do I start. Absolutely shambolic!!!!!

    Our daughter is being failed by the system and needs to stop!

    We’re in full support for ensure our daughter (and all the other beautiful, gifted children who experience similar struggles) get the support the deserve.

    Like

  10. There needs to be more school places at special school s for academically normal kids. For kids with ASD and anxiety. My child was diagnosed late, as schools don’t listen and parent blame. The stress of being threatened with legal proceedings over attendance, whilst sorting an EHCP, is horrendous. I am one of the lucky ones who has managed to secure a special needs place for my daughter. She has gone from being unable to attend school to attending school full time and loving it. It shouldn’t have nearly destroyed me and her to get there. My daughter will now get qualifications and be prepared for the world of work. It shouldn’t have taken until the start of year 10 to achieve. Mainstream schools need to focus on not just academics but communication skills, life skills and most importantly mental health.

    Like

  11. All children with additional needs are struggling for various reasons more than ever. It ‘s time to recognise the importance of supporting our children physically, mentally and emotionally to give them the ability to overcome their fears and succeed like any other children now and in the future. I am more than happy to support this petition. Thank you.

    Like

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