Sheffield MP says poor SEN provision is ‘one of biggest scandals facing our society’

A Sheffield MP has said the lack of provision for children with special educational needs is ‘one of the biggest scandals facing our society’.

By Dan Hayes
Thursday, 20 June, 2019, 17:21

Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh said her office was currently ‘inundated’ with casework from parents of children who were not getting the help they needed.

And she her biggest fear was that the parents who came to her for help were merely ‘the tip of the iceberg’, with many other less well resourced families never even becoming aware of the support they were entitled to.

She said: “My office is inundated with casework from parents with children with special educational needs who are not getting the support they need.

“The under-funding and the treatment of these children is one of the biggest scandals facing our society.

“Not only are children not getting the support they need in schools and outside school from a health perspective, they're also much more likely to be excluded from school.”

Ms Haigh said she had spoken to many parents who had been forced to home-school their children as they weren’t able to get the education they need in school.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

“It's a terrible indictment on our education system that the children that need the most support end up with none,” she said.

“And one of the terrible consequences of this is the huge over-representation of people with SEN that end up in the criminal justice system - children who have been failed by the state that fall through the cracks.”

Ms Haigh said there was a debate in Parliament about the issue but that the subject deserves ‘much, much more awareness and recognition in society and the media’ than it is currently getting.

She added that as well as much better funding for SEN in schools, there also needed to be better integration of local authorities and health, clearer paths and understanding of families' rights to what they're entitled to and for Ofsted to have a much more inclusive approach to inspections.

She said: “What scares me the most is that the families that come and see me are dedicated and articulate and have dedicated, in some cases, their entire lives to navigating the system for their children. It's a full time job for them.

“These families are the tip of the iceberg - masking all those families that don’t have the resources to dedicate themselves full-time to navigating the system, whose children might not have a diagnosis, who don't know their rights.”

Last week, the Star reported that parents in the city had reached ‘breaking point’ over the problems and wanted an independent investigation carried out into system.

And on Wednesday, yet more evidence of the scale of the problems came to light when we highlighted the struggles of a family with two autistic children alongside dozens of comments from parents in similar situations.