The Special Education Issue In England Is Out Of Control, According To A Record Number Of Complaints

The Special Education Issue In England Is Out Of Control, According To A Record Number Of Complaints | Future Education Magazine


Following the release of new data showing that a record number of complaints have been upheld by England’s local government ombudsman this year, concern is mounting regarding the provision for kids with special educational needs.

When the judgments were analyzed, it became clear that some children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) had gone longer than a year without a school placement.

The Special Education Issue In England

The increase occurs as the Send system struggles to meet escalating demand and long-term underfunding. Due to lengthy delays in the issuance of Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs), councils in England have accrued significant deficits on their Send budgets. These agreements specify the level of educational support that children with the greatest needs should receive; nevertheless, these standards are frequently not reached.

Since last year, more than 60% more complaints about special needs education have been upheld by England’s local government ombudsman.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGO) upheld 380 complaints between the beginning of 2023 and mid-July, as opposed to 234 complaints upheld during the same time period in 2022 and 167 complaints upheld till mid-July in 2021.

The increase occurs despite the ombudsman being more selective about the complaints it investigates due to capacity concerns.

“The huge increase in the number of complaints being upheld by the LGO is clear evidence that the Send crisis is out of control,” a representative for the advocacy group SEND Action stated. LGO penalties for failure to fulfil legal obligations pale in comparison to covering the cost of provision, which is regrettably leading some local authorities to misuse the system.

“The consequent lack of responsibility is seriously harming disabled children, adolescents, and their families.

There has been a glaring absence of government action (including new recommendations under the Send and alternative provision plan) to enhance accountability and guarantee that local authority decision-making is consistent with legal obligations.

Many complaints centre on delays brought on by a lack of educational psychologists (EPs), whose evaluations councils rely on when creating EHCPs.

The Department for Education (DfE) conducted research this summer that revealed 88% of councils were having trouble finding EPs, while a third were having trouble keeping them.

Members of the Association of Educational Psychologists (AEP) are now voting on a pay-related strike. “Despite the crucial services and support provided by EPs, local authorities are not investing in the profession and are now facing significant problems with recruitment and retention,” said AEP general secretary Cath Lowther.

Children and young people are waiting much too long to see an EP, or worse, never get to watch an EP, as a result of the growth in EP workloads.

In order to prevent other parents from experiencing the same problems, the LGO has lately increased the financial solutions it expects councils to pay for. In addition, it is progressively requesting that councils improve their services.

“Complaints about Send, and in particular those about Education, Health, and Care Plans, continue to be one of the largest areas of our work, and one of the areas in which we uphold the highest proportion of complaints,” said Paul Najsarek, the local government and social care ombudsman. We continue to receive several high-profile complaints about education and children’s services, and over the past year, we have issued more reports regarding these topics than any other.

A DfE spokeswoman stated: “We want to address the challenges that can prevent that from happening. Every child ought to have access to education that enables them to enjoy their childhood, achieve good outcomes, and be well equipped for adulthood and career.

“Our most recent improvement plan outlines how we will restructure the system of care for kids with Send, establishing uniformly high standards across the nation and ensuring that parents don’t have to fight for support.

“We are also investing heavily in the high-needs budget, which is growing by an additional £440 million for 2024/25, bringing total funding to £10.5 billion – an increase of over 60% since 2019/20,” the statement continued.

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