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Children with SEND: Access to Specialist Support

Volume 708: debated on Monday 31 January 2022

13. What recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of access to specialist support for children with special educational needs and disabilities. (905339)

We are conducting a review of the special educational needs and disability system. We intend to publish proposals for improvements to the system through a Green Paper for full public consultation in the first three months of this year.

The National Autistic Society ran a survey of parents and carers last summer, and it found that a quarter of parents waited more than three years to receive support for their child. Urgent reforms are needed for the 160,000 autistic pupils in schools in England to address the issues that have only been exacerbated by the pandemic. Can the Minister confirm that the upcoming SEND review will include robust proposals to tackle the crisis that disabled children and their families are facing?

I recognise some of the challenges the hon. Lady faces, and I give her that commitment. We prioritise children and young people with SEND and their families in our £4.9 billion education recovery plan, and those with the most complex needs continue to receive high-needs funding, which increases to £9.1 billion in the next financial year. We have allocated £42 million this financial year to fund projects that support children and young people with SEND, including £600,000 to the Autism Education Trust.

As lockdown has been scaled down, I have been visiting primary and secondary schools to talk about mental health. What steps have been taken to improve mental health access facilities, including counsellors in all schools?

Backed by £9.5 million, we are offering about a third of schools and colleges in England a grant this year to train a senior mental health lead in their setting. Our £15 million wellbeing for education recovery and return programmes are in addition to the £79 million boost to children and young people’s mental health announced in March 2021 for mental health support teams in schools and colleges. My hon. Friend’s point is well made.

Last week, I met a fantastic local ADHD—attention deficit hyperactivity disorder—support group, who detailed to me the many delays that children are facing in receiving diagnoses and then education, health and care plans, support and treatment. What steps are the Government taking to support pupils with ADHD and suspected ADHD so that they can learn effectively and have a fulfilling educational experience?

The SEND review is all about ensuring that pupils get the right support, in the right place, at the right time and ultimately have better outcomes, and I would be very happy to meet the hon. Lady to discuss the issue further.

The Minister will be aware that four out of five dyslexic children leave school with their dyslexia unidentified, so will he ensure that, consistent with the answer just given by the Minister for School Standards, the upcoming schools White Paper includes action on the universal screening and teacher training that our dyslexic pupils need and deserve?

My right hon. Friend is a strong advocate on these issues. The SEND review and the schools White Paper will, naturally, have to go hand in glove. The School Standards Minister and I would be happy to meet my right hon. Friend to discuss this further.