Vulnerable children deserve better

Date: Tuesday 28th May 2019

THAT parents in Cumbria are choosing to educate children with special educational needs or disabilities (Send) at home because they have lost faith in the system is a sad indictment of the way in which vulnerable youngsters and those caring for them have been treated in the county.

A hard-hitting report from Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission following a four-day inspection has revealed significant areas of weakness in the Send service and a lack of joint working between the areas of health, care and education involved in providing support to children.

The inspectors said that staffing turbulence, structural reorganisation and increasing financial challenges were contributing factors to an unacceptable situation where parents and carers felt as though they had to battle to gain access to services their children needed. In particular, some families had to wait more than 30 weeks to be assessed.

Those responsible for running the Send service admitted this week that they had failed parents and carers, and said work was under way to rectify the situation. That will be of little consolation to those who have been let down by a system in which they have lost trust.

From the response of the service’s leaders, it is difficult to see exactly where the blame should lie, but the disjointed nature of the way in which it has been provided in the past must change.

A more holistic approach is promised along with more accountability and that should help restore confidence. The present system has failed not only parents and carers but the passionate and skilled front-line staff who, the report points out, are making a discernible difference to families on a daily basis. They all deserve better.