Southend children’s services review branded “a farce”

Parents who took part in a review of Southend children’s services have branded it “a farce”.

The department is undergoing a review organised by the Local Government Association following criticism by Ofsted and complaints from parents of children with special educational needs.

Families say education health care plans which cater to a child’s specific needs following an assessment are routinely refused in Southend leaving parents to cope alone.

The review saw 12 parents invited to an online meeting but some of those who took part say they are “deflated”.

Southend Council has insisted it cannot comment until the peer review concludes on Friday.

One parent, who asked not to be named, said: “It was a complete farce. Parents were interrupted and told to stop talking because they were running short of time.

“When I spoke, I was speaking to two women, one of them got up and left the room. The other one stood up and started fiddling with her computer so I asked if she could hear me and if I was still OK to talk and she said ‘yes, I’m listening’.

“I’ve never been in such an unprofessional meeting. It was an absolute farce. I can’t believe how bad it was and everyone is so deflated.

“People were getting shut down. I think this is just a tick box exercise now. It’s horrendous. In the end I put loads of stuff in the chat because it was obvious you weren’t going to get to say it.”

One mother, says she was not sent a link to join the meeting so was denied the chance to take part.

She had requested a private meeting with the panel so she didn’t have to speak about her harrowing experiences in public.

Julia Caro recently won a tribunal against Southend Council over its initial refusal for a plan for her autistic son.

Ms Caro, who lost an older son, Chris Nota, at the age of 19 after he fell from the Queensway Bridge in Southend last July, said: “Parents were having panic attacks for fear of local authority reprisals but overcame that justified fear to stand up. I didn’t get the link because I was holding out for a private one.

“My son died and according to the court and the ombudsman my other two were badly failed and yet I can’t even speak.”

A council spokesperson said: “The peer review is ongoing. It would not be appropriate to comment ahead of the publication of the final report.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter

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