Today, Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission published their findings from a revisit to the failing SEND (Special Educational Need & Disability) services run by Kent County Council. The findings report how Kent has ‘not made sufficient progress in addressing any of the significant weaknesses’ in the service first identified by a full inspection in 2019.
As mum to a child with SEND, today’s findings unfortunately come as no surprise at all. Kent County Council’s process for seeking help through EHC needs assessments, reports, therapies and assessments makes children, parents and schools feel like failures. I have been made to feel like a failure…friends of mine have been made to feel like failures…parents on endless social media support groups across Kent have all been made to feel like failures by a system that seems designed to break parents, leave children in limbo and buy time in order to save money.
In short, Kent Children’s Services and in particular their SEND services are putting cost-saving decisions before life-enchancing decisions.
The report published details today how parents across the county felt the local authority is often not willing to meet their children’s needs. Not willing! Children with SEND are some of the most vulnerable members of our society and the county council has set up a system which is ‘not willing’ to meet need! They need wholesale, massive reform. Now.
The truth of the system will horrify people who aren’t in it. Getting help for your child with SEND in Kent requires the tenacity of a steel girder holding up the whole Empire State Building. You have to wade through bureaucracy designed to be CERN-PhD-level incomprehensible, fill out forms that take a whole working day to complete and you send endless emails off to anonymous mailboxes, never to hear a word again. You have to beg, borrow and take loans to fund therapies that the county don’t (and won’t) provide. There is a complete lack of therapists available working within the public (or even private) spheres. Waiting for an assessments for autism or ADHD takes years. Referrals are often misplaced; when the referrals are found, you are at the back of the queue. You are made to feel like a bully for chasing up emails, appointments, or just when you check in to see how many more years you will be waiting. Mental Health services are stretched so thinly, you often don’t get help until your child is in imminent danger…danger that could have been avoided if mental health support could have been offered sooner. I could go on.
The report details how some parents could sent forty, or fifty emails asking for help and not hear a word back. Often parents resort to getting their MPs involved, but this is only effective if your MP is any good. Too often, Conservative MPs will just ‘bounce’ the concerns raised by constituents back to their local Kent County Councillors and these are the same county councillors (if they are Conservative that is) who have left the whole system wallowing in the mire of failure for what is the better part of a decade.
Leaving parents and children struggling the way they do through the multiple failures of the SEND services is an act of cruelty and neglect by Kent County Council. If they were a parent operating with this degree of haplessness, disregard and ineptitude, they would have been reported to social services long ago. This also rises to a political level though; people – not just parents of children with SEND – should be furious. When politicans allow services to degenerate into being a service that fails the most vulnerable, then they deserve to be voted out. The Conservative-led Kent County Council offers a SEND service that is a navel-gazing, child-failing, parent-shaming mess
The letter from OFSTED and the CQC detailing their findings is here. Please be angry people. Our children deserve so much more than this.