SEND Children Again Facing Worst Impact Of Covid School Exclusions

08 September 2021

The Children’s Law Centre has warned that children with special needs and disabilities are once again being forgotten in the pandemic response. The warning comes after reports of disabled children facing severe negative impacts as a result of exclusion from education settings due to direct contact tracing or testing positive for COVID-19.

Rachel Hogan, Special Education Needs and Disability Expert with the Children’s Law Centre said: “We have consistently raised concerns that vulnerable SEND children have been some of the hardest hit during COVID-19. We voiced our concerns early during the first lockdown and it was too long before action was taken. We are seeing it again and it must be addressed urgently.

“Children with challenging behaviour on the edge of care are being sent home from special school when being identified as being a direct contact. Those who test positive are at home with no access to education or respite for ten days. Vulnerable children are suffering, parents and carers are being injured and families are facing breakdown.

“We are seeing the impact it is having on our clients in our day to day work.”

Mrs Hogan continued: “We need to see an urgent and joined up response from both the departments of health and education to protect these children. We cannot see the same mistakes repeated from the past. There can be no delay or failure to act collectively.

“We have already witnessed the drastic impact on vulnerable children when decisions are made without fully considering the adverse impacts. We cannot be looking back in weeks or months wishing action was taken earlier. Disabled children are being hit hardest when they are excluded from educational settings. Decision makers must do all they can to ensure their needs continue to be met.”

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Education Authority Must ‘Grasp Opportunity’ for Meaningful SEND Reform

21 April 2021

The Children’s Law Centre has urged the Education Authority (EA) and the Department of Education to grasp the opportunity for meaningful improvements to the special educational needs and disability (SEND) process. The briefing comes at a time when the EA is conducting an internal improvement plan, including input from key stakeholders. It also follows shortly after the Children’s Law Centre submitted a critical response to draft SEND code and regulations.

Watch the committee briefing session

Read the briefing paper

In a briefing to the NI Assembly Education Committee, a number of key areas were identified to ensure improvements are meaningful and achieves positive outcomes. This included the need for meaningful consultation with children, their parents and carers. Other issues raised included the need to focus on early intervention and improve primary decision making, in the knowledge that over 97% of SEND Tribunal appeals achieve a successful outcome.

Rachel Hogan, the Children’s Law Centre SEND expert said: “The failings in the system have been largely operational, rather than caused by legal deficiencies. There is a robust legal framework around SEND – compliance is key. The EA and the Department must grasp this opportunity for improvement. It should be meaningful and must benefit those who are impacted by it – children.

“The SEND framework is there for the children & young people who need it. When will their voice be heard? How will they be empowered to participate in driving improvements & monitoring outcomes? This is a key concern if we want to make meaningful improvements. If we listen to those who are impacted – namely children, their parents and carers – then we can go a long way to providing better solutions.

“Those solutions must include a process for identifying unmet need, improving primary evidence-based decision making and a cultural shift in how we treat children with special educational needs and disabilities.”