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Lib Dems call for County Council to increase SEND provision within Surrey

November 30, 2017 9:07 AM
Originally published by Surrey County Council Lib Dems

Angela Goodwin & Chris BottenLiberal Democrats have called upon Surrey County Council to improve and expand its provision of services to children with Special Educational Needs & Disabilities (SEND). The County Council spends a total of £237 million on SEND services for children and young people, educates 822 SEND students outside of the county, and spends nearly £27 million on travel costs for SEND students. Liberal Democrat county councillors have tabled a motion, to be discussed at Council next week, calling for the Conservative-administration to invest in more SEND provision within Surrey, in order to reduce the number of placements outside of the county, as well as reducing travel costs and times for children and parents alike.

Following an inspection in October 2016, Surrey County Council was criticised by OFSTED who found significant areas of weakness in Surrey's SEND practices and described the "overwhelming" lack confidence in the local area's leaders and services.

Cllr Chris Botten, Spokesperson for Children and Families and the proposer of the motion, said today:

"Families in Surrey whose children have special needs frequently face an uphill struggle to ensure their children get the package of support they need. We recognise that the position is improving but it would be a lot easier if Surrey developed enough special placements in the County which children could access close to their homes.

"It should not be necessary for children to be placed out of County for their needs to be met and I believe that we have the skills and commitment in Surrey to be able to create our own specialist units, improving the lives of children and their families and providing for their needs closer to home.

Cllr Angela Goodwin, Liberal Democrat County Councillor for Guildford North and seconder of the motion, added:

"I know many families whose children have been in special education for all of their life and - whilst they have received good support for their health, education and social care - it hasn't been easy. Getting the right support and information for anyone with special needs at the right time is, in most cases, an uphill struggle for families. Once you're in the system, there is no let up; you're continuously being primed to prepare for the next stage whether it's moving from Children's Services, to Transition Services (18-25 year olds), and then on to Adult Services.

"Families consider themselves fortunate when their child / young person is offered a residential placement; the reality is that these are few and far between in Surrey or in nearby authorities. When it comes to visiting their children or young people, parents and carers face the costs of the journey itself, the time it takes to get there and back (sometimes 3-4 hours each way), and possibly the cost of paying for hotel accommodation. That's without taking into account the stress and challenge of finding someone to look after their other children who may themselves have their own special needs. The County Council also provides transport - where appropriate - on a daily basis where there is no residential placement. Some children and young people can travel up to three hours on a round trip which too can be exhausting, stressful and emotional for them.

"Investing in Specialist Units within Surrey will be life changing for those who use the facilities, and their wider family members. Let's do it and make a real difference."

NOTES

- A copy of the motion to be discussed at Council on 5/12 can be found here, Item 8 (ii):

https://mycouncil.surreycc.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=121&MId=5100&Ver=4

- A copy of OFSTED's letter from October 2016 can be found here:

https://surreylibdems.org.uk/en/document/letter-from-osfted-to-surrey-county-council-send-inspection#document