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Children with SEND: Specialist Support

Volume 710: debated on Monday 14 March 2022

9. What recent assessment he has made of the availability of specialist support for children with special educational needs and disabilities. [R] (906043)

We have been conducting a thorough review of the special educational needs and disabilities system, including looking at the specialist support for children and young people to help them to fulfil their potential. By the end of this month we will be publishing our findings and consulting on proposals to strengthen that system.

In conjunction with the University of Liverpool law clinic, I am able to put on a weekly advice surgery for parents with children with special educational needs, and that service itself is over-subscribed. There is a real postcode lottery in provision, and we have seen demand for SEND statements and education, health and care plans soar by 480% over the past five years. Can the Minister say, particularly in terms of the shortage in the workforce and in resources, and the postcode lottery, what is the Government’s plan?

We know that covid-19 has impacted particularly heavily on therapy services and other support services for children and young people with SEND. I know that a number have adjusted their delivery models. We issued new guidance in September, but I am working closely with my counterpart at the Department of Health and Social Care to try to address this issue. I encourage the hon. Gentleman to look at the SEND review, because in my view the postcode lottery and the inconsistency has to end, and with the SEND review it will.

I warmly welcome the confirmation from the Minister that the SEND review will be published this month. I am also grateful to him for the engagement we have had on how we can ensure that all children—including all dyslexic children—get the right screening and assessment so that they can get the support to be able to join in the gaining of literacy, which is so critical for success in the rest of their lives. I am grateful for his support so far, but can he reiterate that that will be central to this SEND paper?

I thank my right hon. Friend for his question and all the work he does in this area. It is so very important that at the heart of the SEND review, we have early identification and early support, and I look forward to continuing to work with him on this important agenda.

The Government’s own figures show that almost 50% of children with additional needs are waiting longer than five months for an education, health and care plan. One in five requests is refused and 95% of those decisions are overturned by the tribunal. Families fighting for support were promised that the SEND review would help, but two and a half years on, they are still waiting, while children are being systematically let down by this Government. What assurance can the Minister provide that the SEND review will deliver timely support for families and an end to fighting at tribunals?

First, let me say that in the next financial year, high-needs funding for children and young people with complex needs is increasing by £1 billion to more than £9.1 billion. That is an unprecedented increase of 13%, and it comes on top of the £1.5 billion increase over the past two years, but that is just the finances. Over and above the £2.6 billion we are investing in capital, the SEND review will answer many of the questions that the hon. Lady rightly poses, and she just has to wait a handful more days.