Hold local authorities accountable for illegal SEND practices
The Campaign for Change (Suffolk SEND) is a group of over 750 parents and carers of Suffolk children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
Suffolk County Council is among the worst local authorities in terms of meeting their legal obligations to children and young people with SEND. Hundreds of children were left without proper school places – some being without an education for 3 years or more. Where children have statutory education, health and care plans (EHCP) to provide guaranteed special provision, the Council has consistently failed in its legal obligations to provide such education.
This dire situation has been recognized by 2 failed OFSTED/CQC local inspections and now 26 findings of failure by the Ombudsman for Local Government and Social Services in the past year alone.
A Lincolnshire County Council peer review was published on September 21, again highlighting the systemic failings but failing to identify the unlawful policies and practices leading to this maladministration. Council directors wrote a letter of apology to parents, but in the 12 months since, families with SEND have yet to see significant improvements. During this period council directors spent over £600,000 on management consultants to help them control demand for SEND services, but took no action to comply with their legal obligations to assess the needs, to write conforming plans, to review the plans every year and to actually deliver the supply. obligatory.
This campaign met with Council leaders, including the Director General and senior officials from the Ministry of Education. We explained the issues in detail to county councillors, spoke at council review meetings and corresponded with MPs and education ministers. But to no avail – there were no admissions of illegal practice and no senior Council official held accountable for the enormous and widespread damage that was caused to the most vulnerable, children and young people.
This situation is reflected in other local authorities. However, together with leading public law and education lawyers, we have identified a way to hold Suffolk County Council to account in court and set a precedent in other areas.
Our aim is to hold Suffolk County Council accountable for its unlawful practices in SEND and in doing so help other parents in other local authorities.