Lewisham mother worn down by bureaucracy to get proper care for her autistic children

BY CALUM FRASER
calum@slpmedia.co.uk

A mum of two boys with special needs says parents are being let down by the education system.

Sally Edwards’ sons Oscar, 14, and Toby, 12, have autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

The Lewisham mother was worn down by the levels of bureaucracy involved in getting Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) grants for her children.

Ms Edwards, 47, said: “I fought for so long to get an EHCP for Toby. I was trying to get him the one-to-one care he needs, but it didn’t happen.

“I was so broken by the fight that I accepted what they gave me in the end.

I didn’t have the fight in me to go a tribunal and had to compromise. “This happens to so many parents, who are let down by the system.”

The Verdant Lane resident was speaking out after Ofsted published a report on Tuesday which labelled special needs provision education as “weak” – with children not meeting the assessment threshold suffering most.

Oscar, 14

Chief inspector Amanda Spielman said: “Understandably, this leads to many parents feeling that to do the best for their children, they need to go to extreme lengths to secure an EHC plan, which not every child will need.

“Something is truly wrong when parents repeatedly tell inspectors that they have to fight to get the help and support that their child needs.”

Toby, a pupil at Knights Academy in Launcelot Road, Downham, has been receiving one-to-one support even though it is not part of his EHCP.

Ms Edwards said: “This is almost a happy ending. “His new school have been amazing. His one-to-one care was supposed to be temporary to help him settle in, but they have kept it going.

“We’re going to battle now to get his EHCP upgraded to one-to-one support.” Sally’s other son Oscar has a milder form of autism than Toby.

The mother said: “We’ve had to get by. Oscar is higher functioning. If I felt he was suffering I would do something straight away, though. “He gets academic support but he’s struggling to make friends.

Toby, 12 and his mum, Sally Edwards

He has anxiety and gets a bit OCD when he comes home. He’ll disappear upstairs when he comes home and then he’ll come down every five minutes to check the locks.”

Sally volunteers to help parents get the right form of education. More than 4,000 children who were supposed to be on an EHCP were not receiving support in 2017, but that number has fallen to 2,060.

An Ofsted spokeswoman said: “One child with SEND not receiving the help they need is disturbing enough, 2,060 is a national scandal.”

A DfE spokesman said: “This report shows that standards in our schools are rising with 86 per cent judged to be good or outstanding compared to only 66 per cent in 2010.

“It shows we have a robust education system – one where parents can feel assured that the vast majority of schools, early years providers, children’s homes and local authorities provide a high level of education and care for young people, regardless of their circumstances.

“One of the key functions of a good regulator is that it highlights areas of concern and we will work with Ofsted, schools, local authorities and others to address the issues this report picks out.”

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