SEND services failings 'unacceptable' and frustrating says Ipswich MP

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Tom Hunt has issued a response to Suffolk County Council's SEND failings. - Credit: Archant

An Ipswich MP said the shortcomings for families with special education needs and disabilities are "unacceptable" following the publication of a damning report into Suffolk services. 

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt said it pained him to see failings within Suffolk after an independent review of Suffolk County Council's SEND services concluded that weaknesses existed in a host of areas and made nine recommendations for future improvement.

The report from Lincolnshire County Council addressed many areas including issues around the council's transparency, processes and finding sufficient and appropriate placements - issues the MP said he was not prepared to accept.

Mr Hunt said: "As someone who is incredibly passionate about SEND provision nationwide, it pains me to see the failings of our own system in Suffolk.

"It is incredibly distressing to see the frustration caused to parents and to young people by the shortcomings of the SEND provision locally.

"The failings of Suffolk SEND are unacceptable, and it is particularly sad to see these shortcomings apparent in my own area. It does not come as a surprise to me, given the number of constituents who have contacted me on the issue, that parents have struggled to find appropriate placements, and found the system incredibly frustrating – particularly regarding the inconsistency and lack of transparency in processes for children/young people requiring EHC plans."

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He said he fully agreed with the reviews analysis including greater pace around practioners' relationships with families and sevices not being fairly funded.

Mr Hunt said: "Increased funding would allow better provision for individuals with additional needs in mainstream school settings, alleviating some of the demand burden on specialist placements. It is essential to encourage further investment into Suffolk SEND provision in order to ensure every child has access to appropriate placements, which is not currently the case."

The MP has long campaigned for greater support for young people, following his own diagnosis with dyslexia and dyspraxia when he was 12. 

Suffolk County Council issued an apology to parents and said it had "let down" children. 

Rachel Hood, Conservative cabinet member for education, said: "Our priority now is to implement wide-scale improvements, and to do this with pace, impact and efficiency. We have already started to make improvements to the way we do things and whilst, wide-scale improvement will take time, we are determined to make things better."

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Mr Hunt said it was encouraging the council would work with Impower, which has worked with authorities nationwise to improve SEND provision but there remained much to be done - particularly for Suffolk SEN students with Education, Health and Care plans.

Mr Hunt said: "Though this review is limited to specific aspects of SEND provision, it is promising to see senior county council members welcoming constructive feedback, and acknowledging current failures with openness and an honesty towards the challenges ahead."

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