Urgent Reform Needed to Support Children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities

23 May 2023

A new independent review of special educational needs services conducted by Ipsos has found that, under the current system and processes, early intervention for children is almost impossible.

Image of child at school in wheelchair. Headline text reads: 'Urgent reform needed to support children with special educational needs and disabilities

The report highlights the need for urgent reform. It builds on a number of critical reports and provides recommendations to improve support for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

The Children’s Law Centre (CLC) has welcomed the report and called for urgent action, and the necessary ringfenced funding, to ensure meaningful changes are made to provide earlier and more effective support.

Rachel Hogan, SEND expert at the Children’s Law Centre, said:

“This is a welcome report that highlights a number of failures already well known to those who work with children with special educational needs and disabilities. We have been raising these issues for many years and at CLC we see the negative impact on children in our daily work.

Image of Rachel Hogan, with quote reading: "“This is the latest in a number of damning reports highlighting the many failures to enable equality of access to education for children with SEND and offering solutions to fix this broken system. We now need urgent action."

“This is the latest in a number of damning reports highlighting the many failures to enable equality of access to education for children with SEND and offering solutions to fix this broken system. We now need urgent action.

“Interventions must come earlier and the obstacles to securing support must be removed. Interventions should be focused on outcomes for the child, rather than internal process-focused outcomes. Those who work with children should be better trained on how to identify and provide special educational support, with all children’s services co-operating to put support around the child, with schools becoming more accessible and inclusive educational spaces.

“The report also highlights the urgent need for investing in reform. The Children’s Law Centre, along with 200 organisations and individuals, recently wrote to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Chris Heaton-Harris, to raise concerns around cuts to children’s services. Playing politics with our children’s futures and failing to properly invest in stabilising and reforming SEND services will not only continue to harm children but it will strip our economy of valuable financial resources and a properly educated workforce in the long-term.”

The Ipsos report can be found at: https://www.education-ni.gov.uk/publications/independent-review-special-educational-needs-services-and-processes

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Empowering Visually Impaired Children and Young People to Access Equal Education

20 May 2021

EqualEyes, a new collaborative project by the charity Angel Eyes NI, in partnership with the Children’s Law Centre, will empower visually impaired children and young people to access equal education, advocate for their rights and influence decision makers.

The project, which will provide expert led workshops to 125 children and young people, as well as their parents and carers, is being funded by The National Lottery Community Fund.

Speaking after the new funding was announced, Sara McCracken, CEO of Angel Eyes, said:

“We are excited about this partnership project bringing together expertise on the impact of visual impairment in education and knowledge of the legislation that protects the rights of children.

“The EqualEyes project will provide expert led support, education and information to ensure children with a visual impairment get the help they need to access the curriculum and give a platform to those with lived experience, so they can influence decisions.”

Children’s Law Centre Director, Paddy Kelly, added:

“The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child establishes the right for every child to freely express their views in all matters affecting them, including education. For this to be meaningful, children and young people must be aware of the rights and resources available to them.

“They must also have the tools and opportunities to influence people making the decisions at all levels, from classroom assistants to politicians.”

The dad of a visually impaired 11 year old boy, Jake, who has been receiving help and support through the charity Angel Eyes said:

“Charities like this have such a positive impact on children and parents struggling to cope. They make such a huge difference to families dealing with the daily challenges placed upon children with sight loss.

“Through the Angel Eyes events I have learnt so much. The information shared by parents and children who face similar challenges has been extremely valuable.

“The stories have been inspirational. Hearing those shared experiences and the issues many visually impaired children face in education, as well as the social interaction, has been very important. “There are so many areas I would have not considered until I spoke to other parents and children through Angel Eyes.”

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