Will Aczel joins and listens at Devon SEND protest

WA
8 Feb 2024
Cllr Julian Brazil addresses the SEND protest crowd

It is scandalous how Devon County Council (DCC) is failing to provide timely, accessible education for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

Today, I joined and listened at a protest at County Hall with families from across Devon.

Devon County Council's SEND provision is woefully inadequate because of both underfunding and mismanagement.

Devon schools receive hundreds of pounds less per pupil than the national average. Devon needs more Cllrs and MPs who actually fight for us.

More money needs to be invested in mental healthcare, specialist training and schools.

There needs to be more resources allocated for DCC to produce effective and timely Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs). Some caseworkers are responsible for over 500 children and haven’t been trained properly (Exeter Observer, 2023).

Instead of addressing this issue, DCC makes families take it to a tribunal - where DCC loses 94% of cases. This resistance to EHCPs is unnecessary, probably costs more, and is hugely damaging. They are failing families.

Conservative-run DCC’s approach and culture is counter-productive. They must address issues head-on, not ignore, hide, and cover-up.

Robust auditing would improve accountability, trust, and show how improvements get taken on-board. Many today were calling for a public inquiry. I think that would match the scale of the scandal.

It is clear that change cannot come soon enough for SEND families. More effective, open, and transparent agendas, meetings, and consultations are needed to demonstrate meaningful listening.

To this end, it was disappointing and shocking that there were no representatives from the Conservative administration. No Labour or Green Party reps either as far as I could see, despite the importance of listening to those affected in this scandal. There was, however, a good turn out from Lib Dems, listening, speaking, and engaging.

Education is a legal right. Proper SEND provisions would unlock so much personal, social, and economic well-being in the short- and long-term.

There are even more issues relating to Devon’s SEND scandal. I have created a list of action points for improvement for different responsible bodies and I intend to take this further, such as in letters and public advocacy. Please contact me if you would like to contribute any suggestions.