It’s not just Autism services, but all special educational needs.
Recently there has been lots of talk about statutory assessments and the fact that so many parents requests have been refused, in one area ALL parent requests were denied by the LEA.
Where we live, it seems to be that refusal to assess is purely a way to extend the timescales for assessment.
When I went through the process with Dinky she was not only granted a statement of educational needs, but she has been awarded a substantial education package. 1:1 support at all times in an out of county independent special school placement, with daily OT, weekly SaLT, and weekly dog therapy, which requires a taxi and escort for 2 x 45 minute journeys a day.
It is baffling to think that at the start of the process they refused to assess and wrote
Dinky’s educational needs can currently continue to be met within the resources available through school action plus
This was written with no actual assessments to back up their decision, and was proven beyond a doubt to be completely untrue! I always shudder at the idea of someone being in the same predicament and believing that the LEA made an informed decision and the parent decides to leave it. My advice to anyone being refused a statutory assessment is to appeal. The latest figures show that of those who appealed 84% were granted a statutory assessment!
Luckily I was warned that our local authority tend to refuse to assess, and that I should appeal. True to what I was told a meeting with the LEA led to them rolling over and allowing the assessment to go ahead.
Now Dinky’s statement is nearly a year old, and as she is in year 2, her statement is one of the thousands that are going to be transferred over to EHCP this academic year.
I’ve known this for a while as I checked the dates for her year on the local offer website (which is a pain to navigate and not very informative in some areas).
This weekend in the post we recieved Dinky’s Annual Review date. (Put aside the fact she has only been in a placement for 2 months). I believed this AR was supposed to be a transition meeting for EHCP. So today I phoned Dinky’s caseworker from the SEN team at the LEA.
I told her that I’d recieved a date for AR from the school but as Dinky is in year 2, I was under the impression that this was supposed to be the year she transfers and that maybe I had got it wrong. (I’ve found that if you tell them they are wrong from the off- they get a tad touchy).
Well, I can only tell you that I wasn’t that reassured when, the caseworker said:
Oh, I don’t know how it works with annual review and transition, this is all new. I’ll speak to my collegue and get back to you… Hold on.
Now, just to clear up for those that don’t know, the education reforms came into effect 1st September 2014, which is over 6 months ago and as a pathfinder county it’s not like they were unaware these changes were coming in. So this lack of knowledge about how it works from those inside the LEA is astounding. Especially when parents are going to training from the local parent carer forum and so far seem to be more knowledgable than the people who are supposed to be helping our children et the support they need in this process. (Although writing that doesn’t seem much different to doctors not knowing what PDA is or diagnosticians saying a child can’t be autistic because they happened to give momentary eye contact!)
She got back on the phone and said I was right (should have got that in writing!), that this annual review is supposed to be a transition meeting and that the school need to download the parent carer booklet and send it to me to fill in for the review date so that they can transfer the statement to EHCP.
She then said that no one fom the county will attend the meeting. However she will get someone to tell the school that this review will be transition, and make sure the process is adhered to.
I asked if I could download the booklet, and was told that that would probably be a good idea!
So it seems that the SEN system is still in crisis. The main issue here is that the people this affects are one of the most vulnerable groups of people in our society- children with SEND. Furthermore, already stressed out parents dealing with being a carer of a child with special needs, are having to become the experts and do all the work in order to make sure their children get the support they need.