Families of children with special educational needs and disabilities are facing a "nightmare of bureaucracy, buck-passing and confusion", due to poorly implemented legislation, according to a report.
An 18-month inquiry into government reforms aimed at placing children and young people at the heart of the SEND system by the Education Committee found a generation of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities is failing to receive the support it deserves.
Rt Hon Robert Halfon MP, Chair of the Committee, said: "Despite the good intentions of the reforms, many children with special educational needs and disabilities are being let down day after day. Many parents face a titanic struggle just to try and ensure their child gets access to the right support.
"Families are often forced to wade through a treacle of bureaucracy, in a system which breeds conflict and despair as parents try to navigate a postcode lottery of provision. A lack of accountability plagues the system as local authorities, social care and health providers too frequently seek to pass the buck rather than take responsibility for providing support.
"Children and parents should not have to struggle in this way – they should be supported. There needs to be a radical change to inspection, support for parents, and clear consequences for failure to ensure the 2014 Act delivers as the government intended," he added.
The committee said that while the reforms to the support for children and young people contained in the Children and Families Act 2014 were the right ones, poor implementation has put local authorities under pressure, left schools struggling to cope and, ultimately, thrown families into crisis.
The Committee urges:
- There should be a greater focus on SEND in school inspections. and there should be a more rigorous inspection framework for local authorities, with clear consequences for failure.
- Where local authorities appear not to be complying with the law, there should be a direct line for parents and schools to appeal directly to the Department for Education.
- The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman should have powers to investigate complaints about schools.
- There should be more employment and training opportunities for post-16 young people.
Robert Halfon added: "We need to end this major social injustice, one which affects children and their families, particularly those who are not as well equipped to navigate this bureaucratic maze.
"Of course, extra funding for SEND announced in the spending round is welcome but the truth is that more cash will fail to make a difference to children with special education needs unless there is a radical change of approach throughout the system.
"The DfE cannot continue with a piecemeal and reactive approach to supporting children with SEND. Rather than making do with sticking plasters, what is needed is a transformation, a more strategic oversight and fundamental change to ensure a generation of children is no longer let down," he concluded.
Special educational needs and disabilities report