CAMPAIGNERS have accused Warwickshire County Council (WCC) of ‘failing their duty’ to school pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).
Lobby group SEND Crisis Warwickshire says teachers and families are ‘being ignored’ and ‘the truth airbrushed to meet an agenda which is all about saving money’, ahead of an Ofsted inspection into SEND across Warwickshire which starts today (Monday July 12).
The group claims there are structural problems within the running of SEND services at WCC, including inadequate parental choice, inadequate provision, lack of resources, and a ‘crisis’ relating to waiting lists for diagnoses.
A spokesperson for the group, which represents families who have children with SEND needs, said they had been lobbying WCC for years, asking for improvements in provision and adequate funding for children.
They said: “We have been contacted by over 150 Warwickshire families in the last year who have told us their often heart-breaking stories.
“Many children face the wrong provision and are often under so such stress they fail to attend school and then become isolated, which can lead to self-harm and suicide attempts. Others have told us of family breakdowns.
“We are also in touch with a number of headteachers who are absolutely overwhelmed with the increase of children with SEND and the lack of resources they have to cope with this need.”
The group says there are currently around 20 SEND children in Warwickshire who are not able to attend school due to lack of places and support within schools.
The spokesperson added: “The New Inclusion Programme recently launched by the council has led to a lack of parental choice, with many children being forced into mainstream provision when they need specialist provision. This comes amid a lack of adequate placements and more pressure being put on teachers to work miracles with improper resources.
“Central government funding cuts have left local authorities with insufficient money to fulfil their legal obligations to SEND pupils.”
Helen Adkins, a member of SEND Crisis Warwickshire, and, until recently, the Leader of the Labour Group at WCC, said the council’s Conservative leadership should be asking for more money from central government.
She said: “The Tory leadership at WCC should be making more noise about the crisis schools and families are facing. They are just not shouting at all, let alone shouting loudly enough.
“The New Inclusion Programme is all about saving money, sadly, at the expense of the safety and best interests of the most vulnerable children in Warwickshire.
“I hope the Ofsted inspection will be an opportunity for the council to be open and transparent about the problems families across Warwickshire face in finding the right provision for their children with SEND.”
WCC Chief Executive Monica Fogarty said: “In Warwickshire we have the highest aspirations for all our children and young people, including the almost 14,000 children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities.
“We welcome the inspection team to Warwickshire along with a further opportunity for parents and carers to have their say. Working with our partners, the Warwickshire Parent Carer Forum, parents, carers and their families, we remain committed to supporting all our children and young people, so that Warwickshire is a fully inclusive and child-friendly county.
“We are committed to listening to the voices of our children and their families, and should there be improvements to be made we will do so with vigour and pace. Children are the future of our communities and each and every voice should be heard. This remains our priority.”