Broad educational support for children with special needs is fundamental. In England and Wales, for example, councils can create educational, health and care plans (EHCPs) for children with disabilities. These always contain the child’s special need(s) and the exact description of the help provided for them. However, according to a recent article in the Guardian, the number of legal battles against local authorities in England and Wales who refused to support children with disabilities has increased 176% since 2014. Local authorities were taken to tribunal 3,274 times in 2018–19, while this number was 1,186 between 2014 and 2015.
Most of these appeals end before the hearing date, but still result in expensive and lengthy processes. For example, a mother from Derby recently spent more than £200,000 for hearings.
Sarah White, head of policy at Sense, a charity for people with complex disabilities, states: If children aren’t getting the support that they need, they’re potentially not able to attend school. Or, if they’re attending school, they might not be getting the level of support they need so that can have an impact on educational progress and potentially their ability to (...) engage and take part in activities.
Between 2014 and 2019, the Birmingham city council was taken to tribunals 985 times, which is the highest number in all of Britain. Its spokesperson told The Guardian, ‘(...) we recognize that there are long-standing issues, particularly with regard to communication with families and waiting times for assessments, which we are working to address’. In spite of this statement, the number of tribunals has continually increased in recent years. These figures show that the level of educational support from local authorities does not meet the needs of children with complex disabilities.