New law could fail 8,000 severely disabled and autistic children

Published on Tuesday, 06 November 2012 16:50
Posted by Vicki Mitchem

This morning, the new Children and Families Minister Edward Timpson MP will appear at the Education Select Committee on the final day of pre-legislative scrutiny of the Children and Families Bill.

Immediately prior to his evidence session, two young men with complex needs will appear before the committee – Tom Schewitz and Josh Pagan.

Labour is warning that the proposed Children and Families Bill could fail some 8,000 children and young people with severe disabilities or complex needs, like Tom and Josh.

There is a glaring loophole in the Bill which means that children with some of the most severe disabilities or Special Educational Needs will not be able to access support from independent special schools, which are often the only providers of specialist care, such as one to one residential provision.

Independent specials schools provide nearly 8,000 places to severely disabled and SEN children.

Despite concerns raised by groups such as the National Autistic Society, parents will be unable to state a preference for a place in an independent special school. Concerns have been raised that the Government has omitted reference to independent special schools in the draft legislation, because there is not a clear legal distinction between mainstream independent schools and independent special schools. Ministers need to explain if this loophole exists because of lobbying from mainstream private schools.

The services provided by independent special schools are not often covered by local authority or voluntary providers. A map of non maintained and independent special schools is available here.

The Government is also scrapping measures such as "school action" and "school action plus" which were designed to help the 1.4 million children who don't have a Special Educational Needs statement but need additional support, because of issues such as speech and language difficulties.

Stephen Twigg MP, Labour's Shadow Education Secretary, said:

"The real fear is that children with the most severe disabilities and those with speech and language difficulties have been overlooked by the Government.

"Too often families of children with Special Educational Needs or disabilities struggle to get the support and education they are entitled to. Labour want to improve the system for children and young people and their parents.

"The Government must ensure they don't make the situation worse. Ministers must guarantee that children with complex needs get the services they deserve.

"Parents and disabled children could be left to fend for themselves."

Source: ©Labour

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