Special needs: an erosion of rights

28th February 2003 at 00:00
The Education Minister claims the draft Education (Scotland) Bill (Additional Support Needs) "will give significant new powers to parents," but it is nothing more than the erosion of some of the most fundamental legal rights of parents and the stripping away of disabled children's rights out of education law.

The draft Bill proposes to remove authorities' duty to conduct multi-professional assessments of children's special educational needs; remove their duty to meet children's special educational needs by allowing them in future to nominate who they consider to be "the appropriate agency by whom the support should be provided;" remove their duty to establish which child belonging to their area has specific or pronounced special educational needs that require continuing review and to open and keep a record of needs; and remove authorities' duty to provide for a child's future needs when he or she leaves school.

For 20 years disabled children in Scotland have been entitled in law to receive the provision which their individual needs call for. The statement made by the Education Minister about the current legislation being bureaucratic and outdated is of the Scottish Executive's own doing. They have never enforced or policed the current legislation which has allowed local authorities to do as they wish.

If this draft Bill is enacted by the Scottish Parliament, it is very clear that the responsibility of identification and providing resources to meet the special educational needs of children will be laid at the door of teachers and schools in the first instance. The expectation is "the child will only be referred to other agencies if their needs can't be meet from existing resources".

As for parents who have a child with a disability this Bill is a heartless experiment.

Lorraine Dilworth Record of Needs Alert High Street Dalkeith

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