Every year many parents of children with disabilities in the UK have to play an absurd game with their local education authority. In principle, it is a process to define the special educational needs for their child that puts in a legally binding statement the steps which the authority will take to make provision for those needs.
Providing those services, such as speech and language therapy, is sometimes expensive and the authority will try to avoid providing it, by, for example, not making mention that it is, in theory available. What should be an exercise in providing exactly what the child needs becomes a battle of wits, with parents having to find legal precedents for provision of a particular service and authorities using evasive language to shirk their responsibility to provide for the specific needs of the child. The stress this creates for both parents and children is appalling.
Parents have paid for these services through their council tax. Imagine the uproar if your council used your money to provide some sort of service such as an after school club, say, but then tried to prevent you finding out about it. And not only that, but once you have found out, the council put forward spurious arguments (sometimes involving surreal bureaucratic jargon) to prevent you using it. You then resort to legal advice or expert opinion (for which you have to pay) to establish that the council has to give you access to it, which they ultimately concede. They know that they have to provide the service but hope that you won’t have the tenacity, wits, money (sometimes) and letter-writing skills to go all the way. You are obliged fight an expensive, stressful and needless battle with council officials whose salaries are paid for by your taxes to get something you are entitled to anyway.
The result is that disabled kids whose parents don’t have the means, financial or otherwise – whom the present government euphemistically refers to as “hard working families”- are deprived of the opportunities that society supposedly affords them as a right.
This is a scandal that needs exposing and which makes a mockery of the present government’s aspirations to build a more caring and inclusive society.
So this report is very welcome.