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Fair treatment of children with special educational needs required

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The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) has released a report 'SEN: Preparing for the future' in which it has warned local authorities regarding the fair treatment of children with statements of Special Educational Needs (SEN).

The report outlines a number of examples where pupils have been unlawfully excluded, suffered unreasonable delays and have been left without vital support for accessing education. The report also outlined upcoming changes to legislation in this area including the replacement of SEN statements with Education, Health and Care plans (EHCP) as the responsibilities of councils and educational establishments are widened under the new Children and Families Bill coming later this year.

A child or young person has special educational needs (SEN) if they have a learning difficulty, disability or health condition which calls for special educational provision to be made for them.  

Dr Jane Martin from the LGO said: "A common phrase I hear from families when seeking to resolve a complaint about special educational needs provision is that it feels like a constant battle. It should not have to be this way." 

The LGO receives more complaints regarding educational access than any other area. The report also made clear that Local Authorities cannot use lack of resources as an excuse for not meeting their statutory SEN duties.

One of the examples outlined by the report is 'Randeep's Story'; a girl with an autism spectrum diagnosis who was unfairly excluded from school on a number of occasions due to failings by the school to properly support her needs. As a result 'Randeep' was absent from school approximately 50% of the time. 
Mike Pemberton, head of the civil liberties team, supports the charity Ambitious About Autism's 'Ruled Out Campaign' which aims to promote awareness of the difficulties that children with a diagnosis of autism spectrum can experience in a school setting and the fact that small adjustments can make all the difference.

Dealing with a dispute concerning additional or special educational needs can be particularly stressful given the fact that as a parent you are also dealing with the home and family side of the diagnosis or medical condition. 
Our education team are able to offer advice and assistance in relation to all aspects of a SEN provision from obtaining a statement/Education & Healthcare Plan to admissions and challenging exclusions. Our community care team may also be able to assist with any issues concerning social care planning. Please feel free to contact us on 0175 321 6399.

By Emma McClure, human rights & civil liberties team