“A system that has not worked well for a long time.”

“Widespread and systemic gaps in service provision.”

“High numbers of families at crisis point. Rather than pre-empting issues, the local area partnership ends up firefighting.”

These were just some of the findings of Ofsted’s damning inspection into Suffolk County Council’s special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) services.

Ipswich Star: Suffolk County Council faces further criticism in Jack Abbott's opinion column.Suffolk County Council faces further criticism in Jack Abbott's opinion column. (Image: EADT)

Ofsted’s judgments came as little surprise - it was, after all, the third such report in less than a decade, not to mention all the other occasions the Council’s failings have been exposed.

The families who have fought for so long feel vindicated by the report’s findings, but they are exhausted and angry too. Most devastatingly of all, they have completely lost hope that things will ever get better.

You can understand why. These systemic failures have continued for a decade, and yet we are supposed to believe that this time things will be different, that this time the Conservatives really mean it when they say that SEND is now their priority.

In his column yesterday, Paul Geater captures the anger that so many of us are feeling.

We have had years of excuses, disingenuous apologies, spin, broken promises and gaslighting from Suffolk County Council.

Yet, even now, instead of finally listening to families and putting children first, they have again resorted to their PR playbook to try and salvage its reputation.

I have long said that new resources alone won’t resolve this crisis, and unless the deep-rooted cultural problems are acknowledged and resolved, the lived experiences for families will never improve.

I was proud to help deliver the plans for more than 800 new specialist places during my time as a county councillor, but as I warned then, this was never meant to be a case of ‘job done’. New places alone could never provide a magic bullet to solve the extensive number problems in the system. We were fixing just one cog in a broken machine.

After having so many chances to make amends for their failures, it is clear Suffolk County Council has neither the ability nor the will to end Suffolk’s SEND crisis.

That is why I have written to the Government urging them to intervene. After ignoring this crisis for so long, they must now step in to provide the leadership, resources and expertise that Suffolk County Council is so obviously lacking.

In all probability, this is a fool’s errand. It speaks volumes that Suffolk’s Conservative MPs have provided little scrutiny or accountability, acting bystanders as their friends at the County Council cause misery to thousands of their constituents.

The Government has starved the SEND system of resources and their SEND Review - by the time it was eventually published after three years of waiting  - was underwhelming and lacked any sort of urgency.

In truth, we will likely have to wait for a change in Government before the tide starts to turn for children and their families.

We have to ensure that a child’s right to receive their education and support in a mainstream school is upheld, if that is their family’s choice; while making sure specialist provision is available, so all children and young people can be part of a truly inclusive education system, receiving the support they are legally entitled to.

I want to end the desperate situation where families have to keep fighting the same exhausting battles against a system that is working against them, not for them. It is about time children with special educational needs and disabilities are treated with the dignity, respect and love that they deserve.