Children with SEND and their Families: Support

Education – in the House of Commons on 16th January 2023.

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Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Shadow Minister (Climate Change and Net Zero)

What steps she is taking to improve support for (a) children with special educational needs and disabilities and (b) their families.

Photo of David Johnston David Johnston Conservative, Wantage

What steps her Department is taking to support schools with pupils with special educational needs.

Photo of Claire Coutinho Claire Coutinho The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

All children, no matter their special educational need or disability, deserve the right support to be able to succeed. We will be publishing a full response to the SEND and alternative provision Green Paper in an improvement plan early this year, and we continue to work closely with children, families and education, healthcare and local government sectors on this very important issue.

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Shadow Minister (Climate Change and Net Zero)

Today is Blue Monday, and I am sure that both you, Mr Speaker, and the Education Secretary will be pleased to know that, following our event last year, the band New Order and the charity CALM—the Campaign Against Living Miserably—have teamed up together today to urge people not to hold back from seeking help with their mental health if they need it. However, as we discussed at that event, too many children are facing unconscionable delays in getting assessed and in getting support. Too many children risk being damaged for life as a result, so will the Minister please get a move on and bring forward the response to the SEND review consultation? Children should not have to wait any longer.

Photo of Claire Coutinho Claire Coutinho The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

I can assure the hon. Lady that we are working incredibly hard, and we will be publishing a response imminently. In the meantime, we are rolling out training on mental health to all schools across the country, and I am working very hard with my counterparts at the Department for Health and Social Care to make sure that, when we look at the proposals on SEND, they are brought fully into the picture as well.

Photo of David Johnston David Johnston Conservative, Wantage

Many parents in Oxfordshire are unhappy with the county council for a variety of reasons—from emails that are never answered, to education, health and care plans that come back with wrong child’s details, to long delays in receiving EHCPs. My hon. Friend will know that many parents want an EHCP because it has become the only way to get support for their children, though this might not have been necessary had they received support from the school at an earlier stage. What steps is she taking to address this?

Photo of Claire Coutinho Claire Coutinho The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

My hon. Friend has raised this issue with me several time. One key part of the reforms set out in the SEND Green Paper will be clear standards about what help children with different SEND needs should be getting at school. That will give parents greater transparency and accountability regarding what their child should reasonably get, and also means that children will get the early help that my hon. Friend so rightly talks about.

Photo of Ben Bradshaw Ben Bradshaw Labour, Exeter

The Minister will be aware that Devon’s children’s services have been failing for many years, with special educational needs a particular problem. Following the latest inspector’s damning report, the county council has belatedly appointed a new head of children’s services. Will the Minister make clear to the political leadership of Devon County Council that if things do not improve quickly, she will have no hesitation in stripping Devon of its responsibility for children’s services?

Photo of Claire Coutinho Claire Coutinho The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

We work with all areas that are struggling to provide SEND services through our regions group work, our delivering better value programmes, and our safety valve programmes. I will, of course, look at the issue carefully, and we always step in and act when we need to.

Photo of Jonathan Gullis Jonathan Gullis Conservative, Stoke-on-Trent North

One of the best ways in which young people with SEND can be supported is by remaining in the local area to be educated. That is why I am delighted that, thanks to a significant amount of Government investment, Middlehurst School, which is currently sitting empty, is now being built to create 80 new SEND school places. Will my hon. Friend congratulate Councillor Janine Bridges from Stoke-on-Trent City Council on that amazing work, and will she pledge to come and open that school when it is ready, hopefully at the end of this year?

Photo of Claire Coutinho Claire Coutinho The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

I absolutely commend the work of Councillor Janine Bridges. It sounds as if she is doing a tremendous job to increase the number of places for SEND children. I would also be delighted to come and see whether I can open the school.