Record numbers of parents are fighting councils in court to get the support they need. They shouldn’t have to resort to this
For parents whose children have special educational needs or disabilities (Send), getting help can resemble an adversarial battle. Over the last decade, parents have increasingly resorted to taking councils to court for failing to carry out assessments for education, health and care plans (EHCPs), or for issuing a plan that fails to recognise their child’s needs. Cases heard at tribunal have soared by 580% since 2011. Delayed support is harming children’s education and leaving many in distress. Parents who don’t have the time, money or confidence to fight their council, or who don’t speak English as a first language, are especially likely to see their children go without the help they need.
When the Northamptonshire Chronicle recently submitted a freedom of information request to its local council, the newspaper found it had spent £275,000 on fighting such cases at tribunal. Most of these will be lost; 95% go in parents’ favour. The cost of providing specialist support has the potential to bankrupt local authorities, one council treasurer recently wrote. Faced with rising demand for EHCPs, councils seem to be dragging out the process to save money. Similarly, huge waiting lists have led some NHS managers to drastically restrict initial autism assessments for children. Unless that is reversed, a greater number of children will go undiagnosed and miss out on support.