SEND report was 'watered down' say campaigners, slamming council's 'limited apology'

It looks like pupils are set to return to school in early March

A report into SEND provision in Suffolk has been slammed by campaigners - Credit: Getty Images/iStockPhoto

Campaigners who called for a review into special educational needs and disability provision in Suffolk have slammed the “limited apology” from the county council following the report’s release.  

The results of an independent review by Lincolnshire County Council into Suffolk’s provision - released on Monday - concluded that there were weaknesses in a number of areas.  

Among the issues identified were problems with timeliness in responding to calls and emails and a lack of transparency about process and decision-making. 

Campaign for Change (Suffolk SEND) has been pushing to change the way families are treated by the education system in the county. 

The group is made up of 470 parents and carers.  

In a letter sent to the council, Campaign for Change slammed what it described as a “limited apology” from the council. 

“An apology is worth nothing without acceptance, accountability and action,” it said.  

Parents described their experience with the service as "horrendous, stressful and upsetting".

Roxanne Chudleigh from Ipswich said: "I feel the lack of SEND services in 2021 is shocking and quite frankly shameful. The government and the council need to pull their heads out as we are struggling and so are our children."  

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The group called for “full acceptance of the scale of the problem” saying that the council’s response to date had fallen “far short of what is acceptable” to the parents in the campaign.  

Campaigners also slammed the report itself describing it as a “watered down” report that had come from a “friendly local authority”.  

They acknowledged that the Lincolnshire team had been clearly affected by the “awful stories” they had heard from Suffolk parents and carers.   

Matthew Hicks

Matthew Hicks said the council will consider the points raised in the letter - Credit: Gregg Brown

The letter also asked questions of county council leader Matthew Hicks, including whether he accepted that “the council has failed to comply with the law on SEND for many years” and whether he still had confidence in the council’s statutory officers.  

The group finished the letter by demanding that all children would have an “appropriate full-time school place or alternative placement by the end of October 2021” as well as compensation and catch-up opportunities for those affected.  

It reiterated calls for an independent legal audit of the council’s SEND practises, processes, training and cases as well as “effective and independent legal compliance audits” for the future.  

Rachel Hood, cabinet member for education, told a briefing earlier this week that no legal audit would be forthcoming. 

“We are not proposing to have a lawyer-led audit, and we won’t action a legal review," she said. 

"Ofsted inspects all of our services and provision, and Ofsted and the CQC have already made two monitoring visits to Suffolk, and identified areas and progress where we need to improve. We already have education scrutiny, so we believe that our priority is to move forward actioning the recommendations in the way we have been advised by the report.”

Matthew Hicks, leader of Suffolk County Council, said: “We have received a letter from the Campaign for Change group today and will, of course, consider the points raised and respond in writing. We are also meeting with representatives in October.

"However, for now, we want to reiterate our commitment - not only to implementing the recommendations of the Lincolnshire review but also improve SEND services for everyone. We are sorry that we have failed some children and families and will put it right.”

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