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'This generation is being let down' - report finds widespread failures in provision for children with SEND

Lily Millins, three, with her sign for the march against government 'under-funding' of education for children with special needs in Norwich in May. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Lily Millins, three, with her sign for the march against government 'under-funding' of education for children with special needs in Norwich in May. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

A damning report on the state of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) provision in the UK claims the government "presided serenely" over a failing system which "let children down".

Protesters march against government 'under-funding' of education for children with special needs in Norwich in May. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYProtesters march against government 'under-funding' of education for children with special needs in Norwich in May. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

In an extensive investigation the education select committee found parents were "wading through a treacle of bureaucracy" to get the necessary help for their children and that the system lacked proper accountability and scrutiny.

It also found that many local councils in England were struggling with the reforms initiated in 2014.

The report said significant funding shortages were a "serious contributory factor" to failures by those involved in helping children with SEND.

Last year Norfolk County Council announced a £120m investment in SEND provision which will see at least three new specialist schools built, more specialist places created in mainstream schools and improvements to the education, health and care plan (EHCP) system.

Max Hernandez Brandon, five, with the sign he designed for the march against government 'under-funding' of education for children with special needs in Norwich in May. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYMax Hernandez Brandon, five, with the sign he designed for the march against government 'under-funding' of education for children with special needs in Norwich in May. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The education select committee spoken to children with SEND for its investigation and said it was saddened by their experiences but admired their confidence and determination.

"This generation is being let down - the reforms have not done enough to join the dots, to bring people together and to create opportunities for all young people to thrive in adulthood," their report summary said.

"The Department [for Education] did not need to preside serenely over chaos for five years to see that things were not quite going to plan."

The committee said called for a more rigorous scrutiny of SEND practices, better support for trained professionals helping children with SEND, and mechanism for parents and carers to report failures by local councils directly to central government.

Over the past two years Norfolk County Council has been subject to several local government and social care ombudsman investigations related to SEND and EHCP provision.

Ed Maxfield, Lib Dem spokesman for children's services at Norfolk County Council, said: "The crisis has been plain to see for anyone involved in education in Norfolk - delays in completion of EHCPs, parents forced to challenge decisions, worries about schools 'off-rolling' pupils to avoid the cost of providing support.

"There has to be a real focus on SEND at County Hall and, critically, the government needs to fund the system properly."

The Department for Education recently announced a £780m increase to local authorities' high needs funding, bringing the total spent on supporting children with SEND to more than £7bn for 2020-21.

A spokeswoman said: "This report recognises the improvements made to the system over five years ago were the right ones and put families and children at the heart of the process.

"But through our review of these reforms, we are focused on making sure they work for every child, in every part of the country."

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