Central Bedfordshire SEND Action Group parent warns number of children without a school place could double by Christmas
'I'm tired of telling you what the problems are and the complete lack of change has led to the protest outside.'
The 52 special educational needs and disability (SEND) children without school places in Central Bedfordshire will be nearly double that figure by Christmas, a parent has warned.
"Those we've been told about are the tip of the iceberg," according to Amy Ivins, from Dunstable.
"There are plenty more skeletons in the closet," she told a meeting of Central Bedfordshire Council's children's services overview and scrutiny committee today (Tuesday).
"Many parents are reporting CBC has missed the 20 weeks statutory deadline for completing their child's education health and care plan (EHCP) by weeks or even months," she said.
"It means their child was denied the chance to even go to panel to request a specialist placement because of CBC's failures.
"And what about the 148 or more children on part-time timetables, many of which will be the result of their mainstream school being unable to meet their needs any more?
"Central Beds has one of the highest rates of exclusion of SEND children in the country. How many of these children need specialist places?" she asked.
"Then there are the local home education forums packed with autistic children whose parents have no choice but to give up on Central Beds.
"And the young adults whose provision was closed down at short notice and replaced with a community hall. That 52 will probably be 102 by Christmas.
"How worthless must these children feel knowing their local authority puts so little value on them or their education."
Ms Ivins was speaking on behalf of the Central Bedfordshire SEND Action Group.
"There are 11 disabled children with no school to attend this year and another 41 sent back to mainstream, after your own expert panel agreed it can't meet their needs," she explained.
"This was all entirely predictable and preventable. Please don't insult the families outside by pretending it's a surprise.
"The reality is any recent increase in demand is the result of years of complacency and of unlawful barriers to assessment for children with special needs.
"You've been caught suppressing EHCPs and now you're dealing with the consequences. The mainstream schools have exhausted every avenue to support these children.
"I know from personal experience most of these families face a very difficult year ahead, exclusions, part-time timetables, physical restraint and social isolation.
"For the parents, there's loss of income and employment, mental health and relationship breakdowns, and zero respite.
"For the schools, there's a massive strain on resources causing a detrimental effect to mainstream children as well," she added.
"Education feels like a luxury commodity in the SEND community, something only the lucky few will get and only then through years of fighting, lost education, expensive tribunals and watching our children fall apart.
"I'm tired of telling you what the problems are and the complete lack of change has led to the protest outside."
Deputy council leader and executive member for families, education and children Sue Clark replied: "I understand you're very frustrated and angry and I can hear it in your voice.
"I'm listening to you, whatever you may think. I know you've raised some of these points before.
"It's not good enough that we've children having to wait up to a year for a special school place.
"I can see it's heartbreaking for families, and I can only imagine the uncertainty and anxiety that comes with waiting for a school place.
"I've been talking to a lot of parents worried and upset. As a parent myself, I understand that.
"While I know it's no comfort for the families anxiously waiting, we've met our statutory duty for special school places."