Southend parents remain unconvinced over councillor’s SEND comments

Parents of children with special educational needs and disabilities in Southend should be getting more help from schools, a councillor has said.

Laurie Burton, councillor responsible for children and learning, responded to a report following a review of Southend Council’s Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) service.

The peer review by members of other high performing local authority SEND services noted too many requests for Education and Healthcare Plan (EHCP) assessments, which children need to access the help and financial support they need, are being rejected in Southend.

The decision to grant assessments is facilitated by the council and other agencies, including headteachers and special educational needs co-ordinators who make a collective decision.

But the council believes parents, carers and schools applying for EHCP assessments before they’ve tried other things.

Discussing the report, Mr Burton said: “For some parent groups the communication hadn’t been brilliant. A lot of parents in Southend are under the misconception that everything hinges on the EHCP whereas actually sometimes they don’t meet the threshold and they think that their child will get no support.

We think there is a piece of work to do to work with schools and parent groups so they know even if your child is not at the threshold for an EHCP we can offer this and this.

”That will improve the number of EHCPs being turned down because we wont be getting parents thinking they have got to apply for one.”

Parents are not convinced, however. Jo Adams, who is currently going through a tribunal to get an EHCP for her child after being turned down by the council, said: “This is something that shows years of no co-production. An EHCP is education health and care. So a decent EHCP contains not simply education but health and social care provision as well.

“Is Laurie a doctor? Does he know what provision that child needs if they don’t  have a sensory assessment as part of EHCP assessment identifying the need for small classes and kinetic learning?

“Does he know if a child needs to be taught by a qualified specialist speech and language teacher without an assessment done?”

Colin Nickless who has also had to resort to a tribunal for the help his child needed said the 900-strong local SEND parents’ group would be disappointed by the council’s stance

He added: “I am extremely disappointed but not surprised by the portfolio holder’s comments regarding the peer review’s findings. It demonstrates not only a state of denial at the council, but an unwillingness to learn the lessons of the highlighted failures in the report.

“His comments will do nothing to inspire confidence in parents that are desperate for support for their children, or those that have already had their life chances damaged by council failures.”


Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter