Tag Archives: code of practice

Writing a Statement: An Open Letter to our Local Authority

Dear Local Authority

Thank you for issuing Boo’s final statement the day before your deadline. Thank you for taking an entire month to accept all but one of the tracked changes in the statement I wrote for him, in which I pointed out evidence you’d missed and solicited more where you felt it was needed. It only took you a second to click on that Word button that said ‘accept all changes’ and now Boo has a statement that has a wonderfully detailed and accurate assessment of his needs and matched provision in parts 2 and 3.

Thank you for letting me do your job for you. Oh no, no, no: don’t thank me. It was an honour. Honestly. And taking two and a half days off work to do this so that you didn’t have to, which I then had to make up at evenings and weekends, was a doddle. No worries.

My pleasure.

But why oh why did you miss out the most important sentence of all? The one that accumulated the several pages of 1:1 provision now rightly stipulated in part 3. Why did you not quantify the hours of 1:1 he needs each week in total? Is it because  you know this means you are committed to nothing at all? Is it because it renders the rest of the statement entirely meaningless?

A friend texted me to ask if you are very stupid or very strategic. I don’t know. I honestly don’t know.

So now we have to go to court to get them to ask you the same question. Well done, LA.  You stay classy.

I think it’s a brilliant idea, actually. Every time I don’t do my job at work properly why don’t I insist that my colleagues or other stakeholders take me to court to prove it? And then I needn’t face up to not doing something I am meant to do for five months at a time. Terrific idea. I will propose it at the next policy and planning meeting I attend.

But in all seriousness, because I, for one, have not forgotten what a serious matter this really is, I wonder if you would act differently if you knew the true cost of all this. No: not those beans you are counting, Madam, save them for the panto at the local rep. No: I mean the very real, the very painful, psychic costs of your incompetence? Of your failing in your duty of care to a vulnerable child. You may know this already, of course, or know and not care. But I’ll feel better if I tell you about this. So here goes.

This is how you make us feel.

You address us with the mock courtesy of a 1930s schoolmistress talking to the parents of a badly behaved schoolboy on a parents evening. The social niceties are there, but you aren’t very good at hiding the fact that you are talking down to us, as if we are badly behaved or stupid. Oh and while I’m at it, do get my title right, please LA officials. My daughter is the only Miss in my family and at 7 years old she will likely only put up with the diminutive for another couple of years herself.

You seek to infantilise us, feigning knowledge and regaling facts that are simply untrue. Do you think we won’t have done our homework? Do you think you can get away with it? Or have you been relating these spurious facts for so long that you now genuinely believe they are true? Who knows…

But you know, I’m 38 and big and ugly and all that. I can take condescension. I know what to do with it. Right back at ya!

So why do I finish each and every exchange with you wanting to sob my heart out? Why do I get off the phone shaking? Your incompetence? Your only partial truth telling?

No: it’s because you treat my boy, all our children, like a really nasty little problem. A deep inconvenience. A drain on resources. A  scrounger. Never mind that this little problem and all the other little problems like him mean you have a job. You treat each of our attempts at contact with you (and there have only been 4 in 7 months) as a minor outrage. How dare we try to speak to you. How dare we remind you that we are human.

And you have the audacity to sign off every email to us with a mission statement declaring the LA’s vision of creating ‘opportunities’ for young disabled people to ‘contribute and achieve more than they thought possible’. (Yes: you know which Local Authority you are, don’t you …?) Forgive me, but these words – because they are just words – stick in my throat.

Everything Boo has achieved to date has been in spite of you and we will continue to support him while you just put more and more impediments in the way. Frankly, you don’t know the meaning of the word vision or at least you’ve forgotten it as it’s gotten buried under a pile of budget sheets.

And you know, I get the financial stuff. I do. But you can’t even be honest about why you are failing our children. You don’t say: we can’t afford it. You say: we can’t do this because this form isn’t filled in to our satisfaction, or the OT didn’t use the right kind of headed note paper, or because he’s 2, or because you should give up work and live (euphemism alert) on carer’s allowance.

Local Authority, you leave us bereft, angry, embattled and sad. But worst of all, every day you drag your heels our son loses out. Some vision, Local Authority. Some vision.

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Making a draft statement: let battle commence

And so, finally, it arrived. The draft statement. The piece of paper I have been looking for on the doormat for a week is here. I got back from work at 7 last night and it was on my desk waiting for me.

I knew I didn’t have time to read it properly, but I just had to know had we got more 1:1 for Boo. Had we got what he needs? I was prepared for it not to have as much as we’d like, but I expected more. Everyone involved in his care and at his nursery knows that this is what he needs.

But of course, we didn’t get what he needs. What we got instead was a copy and pasted, poorly constructed document that is so drafty you can probably feel the gale blowing even if you are reading this in Scotland. (I am in the South East in a LA authority which shall, for now, remain nameless, although that will change at some point, I’m sure.) There is, in fact, no mention of quantified 1:1 support anywhere in Boo’s draft statement although the phrase is littered in the appendices that health professionals wrote.

The draft statement commits the LA to nothing. Boo’s needs, many and complex as they are, are mostly documented in part 2, but provision is not matched to these needs and is only quantified once. Once! Apparently, he needs 6 OT visits and one review. A year? A month? A term? Can you not see what my 6-year-old could? That this is important information. That this sentence of the statement is utterly meaningless without a specified timeframe.

I then look closer. There is no mention of flat-level access. Boo is a child with no indepdendent mobility who will be a wheelchair user (as documented in the statement) and in the facilities section of the document there is no mention of flat-level access or to an accessible changing area/toilet. No mention, as several appendices make clear, that he cannot feed or drink on his own. That his drinking, especially, has to be carefully supervised?

Who wrote this statement? This is the worst cut and paste job in history. You know the story about monkey with typewriters, who, given long enough, could write the complete works of Shakespeare. Apparently the same isn’t true of this particular statement writer.

So I phoned his case worker. A very nice, competent professional. She explained why the lack of quantification might be there: because it isn’t in the reports completed by the professionals (they, incidentlly, are actually not asked to quantify it in those terms, as two have pointed out to me today); or because the LA has in mind a specialist setting for Boo (one I know none of the healthcare professionals involved in Boo’s care or we feel is suitable for him) where therapy is delivered on site (although actually, it still should be quantified even if they ahev that setting in mind, you know lovely LA).

And then came the worst news of all. I was also told categorically that we will never get more than 15 hours 1:1 support for our son until he is 5. I was told, somewhat condescendingly, that we had started this process rather early. I in turn reminded her that statements and new EHCP start from 0. It’s clear what the LA thinks: I need to stop work to look after my son. He needs to be in nursery the bare mininum of time. Never mind the huge benefits (social, developmental, cognitive) to him being in an educational setting. Never mind that we know children, 3 of them very well, in 3 other LAs in the South East who have complex disabilities (2 with CP) and in in mainstream nursery who get 26 hours of teaching assistant support via a statement so that their children can access the EYFS curriculum. That’s not how our LA does it, apparently.

I hate the phrase postcode lottery. I hate the reality even more.

And so now we enter the negotation phase. We have to write the statement for them. Do their job for them. We have to take all the info they forgot to cut and paste in the appendices and add it in (cause you know, we are tripping over time as parents of a disabled child). We have to quantify things for them. And they will consider our recommendations and judging by the conversation with the case worker, they will surely reject them.

We are headed for tribunal. I know it. I have recommendations for excellent solicitors with proven track records, but this will cost us more than £10,000. I know there are legal aid options. I also don’t know any that have been successful.

We are trapped, locked into a battle with the place we live. I wish we didn’t live there. I wish we didn’t live in the LA with such an appalling reputation when it comes to SEN provision. What can we do? Move? Leave my job? Lose our home? I feel trapped.

I haven’t slept properly in days because Boo isn’t sleeping either at the moment. I am so overstretched at work that I cannot cope. I am typing this in my office in floods of tears, hoping no colleague knocks on my door. I can see depression or worse beckoning me. I am going to crash. Just at the time I most need to help Boo. I can’t crash. Not until we’ve got him what he needs, at least.

I knew this would happen, but it doesn’t make it any easier to accept. I have never wished Boo was different. But right now I wish that almost everything about our lives was, most of all where we live.

You are crippling us local authority. You are destroying a family, our health and our happiness. And most of all, you are failing in your responsibility for a young, vulnerable child. I hope you can sleep easily at night.

I know I can’t.