Parents of children with special educational needs and disabilities are having to take the lead in seeking support for their child since the system was reformed, new government research finds.
And some parents say they are not receiving enough help from their schools in the process, it says.
The study from ASK Research finds that while, overall, families were generally in favour of the new philosophy behind the reforms, which promote the child being at the heart of the process, there were concerns that some parents were having to be “excessively proactive” in order to get the support their children needed.
The reforms introduced in September 2014 mean that SEN statements are being replaced with education, health and care (EHC) plans which bring together health and care needs alongside educational requirements. Local authorities are responsible for transferring SEN statements to EHC plans. Schools are responsible for identifying children who may need help.
But researchers found that some parents received little help from schools and other agencies in seeking out support for their child.
'Parents forced to lead professionals'
The research states: “Some parents are having to lead the process and lead the professionals themselves. In some areas there appeared to be an interpretation that the new approach should involve parents being more active, and this was placing additional pressure on parents.”
It says some parents reported they had to coordinate the assessment process, quoting one parent who said: “We did all the ringing. I’d found out all about it on the internet and really wanted this to make things better for [my son]. They didn’t contact everyone for reports, so I did it all. I told them what we needed and when by. I had to keep it all going and make sure it was right.”
The research looked into what factors were hampering the process of getting and implementing an EHC plan and found several, including schools still being seen as outside of the process and not being engaged in the decisions about the local SEND approach.
It also highlighed a lack of resources: for example, schools are not being able to apply for all children who they think need a plan because of the resources, time and effort required to make a referral.
The researchers interviewed 77 parents, 15 young people and consulted 120 professionals in four local authority areas.
The report recommends that local authorities do more to collect feedback from families on how effective the service is and make changes based on this feedback.
A DfE spokesperson responded to the research, saying: "We have introduced the biggest reforms to the SEND system in a generation to make sure support is focused on needs and aspirations, and local areas are working hard to implement this."