Tomorrow is a big day. Tomorrow a panel convenes in part to decide whether or not to proceed to Statutory Assessment for Boo. This is the day when they decide whether they will consider him for a statement of special educational needs.
You would think it would be simple, wouldn’t you? Our son has quadriplegic cerebral plasy and is on maintenance medication for epilepsy. He has global developmental delay. He cannot sit unaided for more than a minute or two in a very particular position he can’t get himself into. He cannot roll or crawl. He has some words, but very few. He is bright and keen to learn but his access to the EYFS curriculum is compromised because he has severe physical disabilities. This is a curriculum to which he is supposed to have access thanks to the funding for disabled children of two years plus to go to nursery (although we are not in receipt of it yet and it won’t fund the full 15 hours in the private nursery we found to take him.)
So again, you’d think it would be very straightforward, wouldn’t you? He has acute, demonstrable need in three of the four areas outlined in the SEN Code of Practice. Surely that means he’s a shoe-in for a statement.
And maybe it will be straightforward. Maybe.
But so far, four people who work for our LA (two in Early Years, one as a Portage teacher and one as an Ed Psych, the Ed Psych who would assess him if they proceeded to assessment, it turns out) have said they can’t see the LA agreeing to assess a child as young as Boo. We have been told it is not how our LA ‘likes to do things’. We need to wait another year. At least.
But we have exercised our right to request an assessment anyway fully expecting the LA to exercise their right to refuse us. For a long time, I persuaded myself to wait until the new EHCP system comes in in September.
But at a seminar on SEN reform, solicitors advised me not to wait. Boo’s needs were acute. IEPs were not addressing his needs and enabling him to access the curriculum along with his peers. And the statementing system was a known entity and still very much in place. Why wouldn’t we apply?
And then Boo’s 1:1 (about which I recently gave evidence at the Houses of Parliament) started to seem ever more insecure. The 15 hours of 1-2-1 support he has just managed to receive isn’t guaranteed (in fact it is about to run out again) and personnel changes and managerial inflexibility meant he lost his fabulous 1-2-1 support worker, was given to someone who didn’t want to work with him and didn’t know what to do with him. Because we have no statement we can’t enforce the provision his therapists expect him to receive at nursery and which the LA thinks it’s paying for in the form of discretionary funding.
It’s simple. Boo needs the security and accountability a statement can provide. And maybe we will get one.
But we have received a catalogue of misinformation from LA staff all designed to put us off applying. We have been told that we can’t apply for a statement at his age. We have been told our LA won’t issue any more statements because of EHCP coming in. I could go on with the worthless tit bits sent our way. (Thank God for the Special Needs Jungle website, which has been my sanity saver with its clear advice and trusted information since we embarked on this process.)
I don’t think our experience is unique. Applying for a statement or EHCP is a process mired in difficulty and obscurity. The proposed EHCP system is supposed to streamline things and make them more transparent. I hope it will, but we won’t know for a while.
So for now, I have decided to share our statementing/EHCP journey with you all on the blog so you can follow us through the process. Our experience is not indicative or representative. It’s just one family’s experience. But I hope sharing it may help others as they embark on their own.
In a week or so when we expect to hear about the decision of tomorrow’s panel, I’ll update you. You’ll either hear how assessment is progressing or how we are gearing up for Tribunal.