Sheffield family forced to take council to court over special educational needs fight

A father-of-three has lent his support to calls for an independent inquiry into special educational needs support in Sheffield after having to fight tooth and nail to get his family the help he says they are entitled to.

Monday, 5th August 2019, 10:19 am
Updated Wednesday, 7th August 2019, 5:37 pm

Malcolm Johnson and his wife Dawn, from Ecclesfield, have three children, all of whom have additional needs.

17-year-old Faith, 15-year-old Leo and 13-year-old Kiara all have autism, while Faith and Leo also have visual impairments as well.

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Kiara (13), Leo (15), and Faith Johnson (17) all have additional needs.

Malcolm has had to take Sheffield Council to court to get SEN assessments for all three children, and has even had to use the Freedom of Information Act to get vital paperwork pertaining to his eldest.

He said: “I want an independent inquiry into the way my daughter and my family have been treated. The way Sheffield Council treat children with SEN is disgusting.

“It gets to the point where you have had enough. It is about time families were given some respect.

“Families who have children with additional needs have enough on their plate without having to fight for this as well.”

Faith is currently at Chapeltown Academy, which Malcolm says is not the correct environment for her complex needs.

He says she should be in the Royal National College for the Blind in Hereford, but Sheffield Council have refused to pay the £28,000 a year a place there costs.

“She says when I go to the RNC she feels normal and no one looks at me differently,” said Malcolm.

“Sheffield Council say we can do it here but schools haven’t got the money and are letting staff go. She is struggling.

“None of the support they need to provide is in place. How can a council allow this to happen?”

Faith’s youngers siblings have also now been given an EHCP assessment and Malcolm says some recent mediation between the Council and his family ‘went well’.

Nevertheless, he said the difficulties he has encountered in accessing support for his family has shown him that something in Sheffield needs to change.

“It is quite a battle and it is unnecessary one as well. I just don’t want other parents to have to go through the same fight,” he said.

“It is about levelling the playing field and helping our kids become independent young adults.

“What Sparkle have been trying to do with their ‘just a tenner’ campaign is important is because we have had the Ofsted but things haven’t changed.

“If we had an independent inquiry it would really show what is going on in Sheffield and get things to move forward.”

Councillor Abtisam Mohamed, cabinet member for education and skills, said: “Whilst I can’t comment on individual situations, I believe that it is essential that all children receive the support they need and that SEND services in Sheffield reflect this.

“Wherever possible, we work closely with families to ensure that their concerns are listened to and the right plan is put in place to best meet the needs of each child.

“I know that this does not always happen as quickly as some families need it to, but we always try to address individual needs and this can be a very complex process.

“If any parent has issues with how we handle their individual case we do have a complaints process which we must follow so that we give every parent the same opportunity for their concerns to be addressed.

“Every child deserves the best education possible, and we are working hard to make sure that this is a reality across the city. I welcome feedback from parents so that we use it to make the right improvements.”

Disability charity Sparkle Sheffield want to fund a full study into special educational needs provision in the city themselves, arguing it is the only way to fully understand the scale of the problem.

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