Beds, Herts & Bucks

SEND support in Central Bedfordshire 'a constant battle' say parents

Children Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Inspectors found a number of weaknesses in Central Bedfordshire's SEND services

Parents of children with special educational needs say they "face a constant battle to get the most basic support" from a council.

It follows a critical Ofsted inspection into the service provided by Central Bedfordshire Council and the NHS in Bedfordshire.

Inspectors pointed towards "systemic weaknesses" and said reforms were being carried out "too slowly".

A parents' group said it had "been catastrophic for countless families".

Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission jointly inspected Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) services in Central Bedfordshire in November.

The inspectors said in a letter to the council and the Beds NHS Clinical Commissioning Group that "leaders are not meeting their duties".

'Immense stress'

It said: "Staffing changes mean professionals and families struggle to get answers to their questions and/or receive contradictory information.

"This is a cause of frustration and anxiety."

The letter said the Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans given to children "are inconsistent and often of poor quality" and there was a "backlog of annual reviews" due to a lack of staff.

The Central Bedfordshire SEND Action Group, a parents campaigning organisation, said "systematic failures are entrenched throughout every level of the SEND system" and it had put "immense stress" on families.

Case study

Anna Senior, whose nine-year-old daughter has autism, said delays in assessing her meant she paid £2,500 for a private diagnosis.

"Once I got the [autism] diagnosis only then did [Central Bedfordshire Council] take me seriously," she added.

But she was still unhappy with the education provision for her daughter and moved her to a school in neighbouring Buckinghamshire where the difference was "immense".

Conservative councillor Sue Clarke, responsible for families, education and children, said she was "extremely sorry where we've had families who've had a poor service".

"We completely accept the findings of the report. We recognise there are significant weaknesses in parts of our SEND service," she said.

Ms Clarke said the council had "started to make the necessary changes".

"But we need to make them more quickly, we need to do more and that doesn't compensate for the parents we've let down in the past," she added.

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