Image above: Tim Nicholls, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at the National Autistic Society
The current education system “simply isn’t working” for many autistic children, according to the National Autistic Society.
Tim Nicholls, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at the National Autistic Society, talked to The Chisiwick Calendar after the Local Government Ombudsman upheld a complaint against LB Hounslow for failing to provide education to an autistic child for a year after his mother said she was no longer home schooling him.
In the report by the Ombudsman for social care, it was revealed that not only were the local mainstream schools unable to met the child’s needs, but of the two special schools contacted by the Council, one couldn’t offer the right support. The other had a waiting list of 75 before he was added to the list. The Council then took a further six months to organise tuition at home.
Tim said the complaint raised in Hounslow is not an isolated case, and is indicative of a national trend which sees those who have special educational needs regularly slipping through the safety net.
Tim told The Chiswick Calendar:
“The education system simply isn’t working for many autistic children and young people in England. Up to four in ten parents are being turned away when they first ask for an assessment of their children’s needs. 70% tell us they had to wait six months for support, and 50% waited for more than a year.
“Families can often only get the support their children need through expensive and stressful legal action. This is unacceptable.
“The Government is set to publish a new autism strategy in the coming months that will include children for the first time, as well as a review into the whole SEND system (Special Educational Needs and Disability). This must be a priority for ministers and lead to far-reaching change. Otherwise, autistic children will continue to be held back.”
What is the SEND system?
The Special Educational Needs and Disabilities system is meant to support children and young people, aged 0-25, with additional needs throughout their education.
Children and young people who require special educational needs are entitled to extra support by law. This includes anything from more accessible information, to one-on-one support at a school or college.
Every local authority must identify which children and young people have special educational needs or disabilities, so that it can plan how it will go about meeting their needs.
Children and young people with special educational needs will be identified in many different ways. Some may have their needs identified by a health worker or a paediatrician in their early life, or some later in their lives such as when they enter a certain stage of education.
In all situations, the families of children under the age of 16 must be told about their child’s needs, and families of young people over the age of 16 should ordinarily be involved in this process as well.
Local authorities are required to publish information about provisions they expect to be available in their area for children and young people with special educational needs, which known as ‘The Local Offer’. Local Offer websites aim to help parents/ guardians understand what is available to them as well as how to access services and support.
Hounslow’s Local Offer is available here. The website has an interactive map which lists all of the special educational needs providers in Hounslow, as well as surrounding boroughs. There’s also a similar map which finds local activities for children, young people and families with special educational needs and disabilities.
LB Ealing’s Local Offer page, found here, has a number of different tabs which link to topics including but not limited to: healthcare plans, support in education, parenting support, benefits, housing adaptations, transport assistance as well as things to do locally. You can also subscribe to a newsletter and speak to SEND officer online for additional help.
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