Please Share: Notice of Peaceful Demonstration, Houses of Parliament, Westminster, London, Friday 27th March 2015, 12:00-15:00

Please join us at ∼

‘Old Palace Yard’ – 

Just south of the houses of parliament,

Opposite the House of Lords: 

12.00 noon till 3pm.

[Google Map]

(Now cleared with Westminster police)

Please scroll down this page for the newly issued
> Press release <

(beneath 99 Red Balloons)

» Please sign the petition at change.org «

Facebook Page: CHILDREN CHEATED BY SEND REFORMS

(Please keep checking back for updates)

Message from Evelyn Ashford of Educational Equality:

“CALLING ALL WARRIOR MUMS AND DADS!!! I have written a concise report with evidence, regarding the formulation of processes by Local Authorities to avoid providing essential support for the most vulnerable and costly children and young people with SEN because of the pressures of budget cuts. This will be given to the cabinet member for Education and asks him to provide assurance that this was not the intention of the new legislation. There are many areas of the system that we can complain against; however we have ONE SHOT to make a difference! The run up to an election is the only time we will be listened to and we need to concentrate our efforts to change one piece of legislation which will affect thousands of children. We need it to be illegal to remove provision from part 3 of a statement – when transferring to section F of the EHCP; without professional recommendations that this is no longer required. If we do not have this legal assurance we will be forever at the mercy of unscrupulous LAs who will cut the support for our children. PLEASE JOIN ME in this campaign. Cary Canavan is compiling a template letter for you to send to your MPs and this will be released soon. Ros Gowers and Amanda Burrows are organising a demonstration on 27th March (next Friday) outside the Houses of Parliament, this is the last day of business for the government and most will be in office. Please send the letter to your M.P. as soon as you can and join us on our March. Full details will be published on Monday for both. We will need you to circulate this as widely as possible including any media contacts you may have. LET’S BE HAVING YOU!!! Please put aside anything else and prioritise this to press for a change in the Law to protect our children. xxx PLEASE SHARE.” 🙂

There will be a RED theme on the day: ruby slippers (think Dorothy) or cherry red Docs (definitely more my thing), RED helium BALLOONS, etc…

Ruby Slippers

This is the TEMPLATE LETTER – please copy and paste, fill in your details and post to your MP (+ your district councillors, county councillor, MEPs…) 🙂 ∼ and PLEASE SHARE.  Xx

(Email your MP here)

Dear …..

I am a parent of a child, age …, with … (diagnoses) and a Statement of Special Educational Needs.

Mr. Ed Timpson claimed in a letter to parents, dated 1st September, 2014, that no child should lose their statement in the transfer to EHCP:

So no child or young person should lose their statement and not have it replaced with an EHC plan simply because the system is changing. Equally, I expect that young people who are currently receiving support as a result of a LDA and remain in further education or training during the transition period, who request and need an EHC plan, will be issued with one. If a council decides to cease a statement and not replace it with an EHC plan or not issue an EHC plan to a young person who receives support as a result of an LDA then dispute resolution arrangements must be in place locally for parents and young people, including mediation and the right to appeal a decision to the SEND Tribunal.

Needless to say, the process is lengthy, which will affect our children’s education, as their needs will not be met during this process. Going to SEND Tribunal places a financial burden upon parents, and some may not have the means to fight to support their child, whose educational development will suffer. The distress caused by battling the system also has an emotional cost to many parents of children with SENDs as it affects their mental health and well-being. The impact of losing provision set out in the statement will not only be felt by the child but also their family and the school with potentially devastating consequences.

Please, would you provide me with the legislation, which protects the current provision in Part 3 of a statement when transferring to Section F of an EHCP until appropriately, qualified, professional advice recommends that this is no longer necessary. We have struggled to find such legal security in the Children and Families Act (2014) and feel that this is against the interests of justice or the intention of the legislation.

I sincerely hope that the intention of the new legislation was not to discriminate or remove the rights of children in this way and look forward to your response.

(Additional optional paragraphs for those attending the demo)-

On Friday 27th March, between 12:00 and 15:00, a group of parents of children with Special Educational Needs will be peacefully demonstrating outside the Houses of Parliament to raise awareness of the way Local Authorities are using the new SEND legislation to remove support from our children. I am your constituent and I will be amongst the group. I would welcome the opportunity to explain our concerns to you personally and hope you will find 15 minutes to come out and talk to us about this very serious issue.

You will easily be able to find us as we will be carrying red balloons!

Yours sincerely,

(Name/Address/contact details)

[Parliament will not officially be in session on Friday, 27th March. Your MPs may very well still be at Westminster. They will all revert to ‘candidate’ status on this day, ahead of the general election, and will be actively canvassing your votes. If ever there was a time for them to ‘make time’ to listen – it’s now.]

Message from organiser, Ros Gowers:

 Join together to demonstrate to our Government that we will no longer tolerate the sidelining of our children and grandchildren and the cuts to their provision which consign them to educational disappointment and us to a lifetime of fighting the system!

So what’s it all about?

This question has very reasonably been asked over at the facebook page by individuals who are not themselves up to their knees or necks in the murky, stagnant waters of SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) provision (ahem) and legislation (sigh). And what exactly are Statements and EHCPs anyway?  

Well, I’ll try to be concise – but I don’t honestly fancy my chances of squeezing it all down into a nutshell.

Some of the most vulnerable children and young people in our society are being sidelined, disadvantaged and, in some cases, damaged by legal and educational frameworks which should support and protect them.

How?

How long have you got?

The old ‘Statementing’ system was set up to deliver to children with SENs (special educational needs) – including, but not limited to, children with autism, Down’s syndrome, cerebral palsy, brain injuries and language and learning difficulties – the special educational  provision necessary to meet those needs which cannot reasonably  be delivered from the resources normally available to and within a mainstream school.

A Statement is a legal document setting out the bones of the above for a particular child.

So far so good. Until you’re faced with the hoops you’re forced to jump through to get one!

Last year the Children and Families Act was rushed through Parliament. And with it, 21st century Statements by another name: EHCPs (Education, Health and Care Plans) – promising children and young people and their parents and carers greater choice, control and participation in decisions about their own support; collaboration between disjointed services and a simpler, more user-friendly system.

Statements are divided into 6 parts, 3 of which (Needs, Provision and Placement) can be challenged at a SEND Tribunal. (My husband and I were at court challenging the contents of our own son’s Statement just last Thursday, but that’s another post for another day.) Statutory guidance, fleshing out Part IV of the Education Act 1996, is provided in the 2001 Code of Practice which runs to 142 pages + annexes, glossaries, etc. All Statements must be transferred to EHCPs by 2018.

EHCPs are divided into 12 parts (Sections A through K with more than one Section H) and the new 2014 Code of Practice comes in at 261 pages + annexes, glossaries, etc. + an extra 58 page ‘guidance to the guidance’.

So much simpler!!!

The 3 parts which can be challenged at Tribunal remain the same: Needs, Provision and Placement, except now there’s an extra step to navigate – Mediation – before you can even get to the appeal stage. But the actual issue is this:

Needs and Provision are being ‘relocated’ – and consequently neither acknowledged nor provided for – to the additional parts of EHCPs which, by Law, cannot be challenged at Tribunal.

And our vulnerable children and young people are going to be (and are already being) left high and dry.

There are also a million and one other issues with regards to timescales, disputes over funding, withdrawal of services, misguidance and misdeeds by Local Authorities – including using the appeals process itself as a delaying tactic, refusing Statutory Assessment of needs in the first instance, etc. The list just goes on… and on…

The Tribunal process itself should be a measure of last resort. All our children’s educational needs should rightfully be acknowledged, correctly documented and provided for much earlier on in the statutory process. LAs are increasingly, deliberately and cruelly, withholding vital support and forcing families to challenge their unethical and unlawful behaviour at court – at significant financial and emotional cost. I was told categorically by the SEN department at my own LA that “What the LA will agree to and what the Tribunal will agree to are two very different things.” (You can read an account of my own family’s battle for a Statement here.)

And in he meantime, our children are forced to breaking point.

Close the legal loophole(s) and protect our children’s rights. Do the right thing.

 

∗ Press Release ∗

In July 2014, The Children’s Minister Edward Timpson wrote;
‘No young person will miss out simply because the system is changing; I’ve made it clear that simply switching over to the new system should never be an excuse for children losing the support they currently have.’

Local Authorities have struggled to keep up with the changes, budgets have been slashed, training is poor and Legal Deadlines for the process are frequently breached. Far from enforcing the Statutory Transitional guidance; the government downgraded this to ‘Advice’ from March 2015. This does little to provide trust in these policies.

Many Local Authorities, who are pressured to make cuts because of reduced funding; have developed various systems to remove vital support from the most vulnerable children and young people for whom they have a duty of care.

In September 2014 The Children and Families ACT came into force. The presentation of this is ‘Parent and Child Centred Reforms’; however there are legal loop-holes which are being used by some Local Authorities to remove provision from the supporting document (which was called a ‘Statement of Special Educational Needs’) when this is transferred over to what is now called an ‘Education and Health Care Plan’ (EHCP). They are systematically removing provision from section F (Provision in the EHCP) and often without appropriate professional recommendations to say that this vital support is no longer required.

Many families report collusion between schools and colleges and the Local Authority which pressurises them to refuse to state if they are ‘unable to meet the needs’ (as the original Statement) of a young person with learning difficulties until the EHCP has removed the provision, thus giving them the ability to be named as ‘suitable’. This saves the County money by avoiding potential places at specialist independent colleges, or simply by reducing the therapy or additional support provided- but at what risk?

They do this because they can, because the legislation in the Children and Families Act 2014 does not stipulate that provision cannot be removed from part 3 of the statement when transferring to section F of the EHCP without appropriate professional recommendations.
Government statistics published in September 2014 states that there were 232,190 children in England who have a Statement of SEN, which means that nearly a quarter of a million children are at risk of having their provision removed.

Refusal to make assessments of children who have special educational needs is common – of those refused only 14% appeal to the SEND Tribunal; however 86% who appeal win their case. This has become a barrier to support and a step in the process. When assessments are carried out there is a serious lack of trust in the independence of the professionals used. They are often unavailable for children but quick to jump to the defence of Local Authorities in Tribunal Appeals.

There will be a peaceful demonstration outside the Houses of Parliament on Friday 27th March at 12.00 Noon (Old Palace Yard): We would appreciate it if you would come to discuss this situation https://www.facebook.com/events/940530802632298/

We are asking for a judicial review to revise and overhaul the new legislation which was hurried through, leaving Local Authorities ill-prepared, incorrectly trained and instead of helping those children with Special Educational Needs they are looking for ways to remove support and provision due to the pressure of restricted budgets. We want there to be accountability for Local Authorities who do not adhere to the Law, who create delays in order to circumvent the system and who leave families at emotional breaking point.

Was this the intention of the reforms, and if not can you assure us that changes will be made to legislation to protect the interests of the most vulnerable children in our society?

Westminster map 

 Thank you for taking the time to read this.
See you at Westminster?
xXx