Right of Reply: Katy Simmons
The co-ordinator of IPSEA, a charity for carers of special needs children, responds to our leading article on statementing
Thursday 24 September 1998
In 1981, Parliament agreed that individual children with special education needs should be entitled to proper assessment and suitable provision. Once these needs are identified, they must be met, even though their LEA may argue against spending the money. The statement is legally binding: it specifies the child's needs, and the help they require. No child is entitled to Rolls Royce provision: only the neediest of children get statements. But if LEAs don't deliver, then parents can take action.
The statement, then, ensures that disabled children actually get the help to which they are entitled. Your editorial dismisses this entitlement as "bureaucracy". But for many families, this is the only guarantee they have that their child will get the help they need. Yes, many families experience delay, maladministration and deep frustration with the process. But these problems mainly arise out of LEA attempts to avoid their legal obligations to children.
Not surprisingly, most LEA officers find legal commitment irksome. Their lives would be easier if they could simply use their discretion and be untroubled by the force of law. Their voices came through clearly in last year's Green Paper, when the Government proposed cutting the numbers of children with statements. Parents should rely on the good will of schools and LEAs, said Mr Blunkett.
What good will? Even with the law in place, families battle to get the help their children need. I say to your leader writer - meet some of the desperate families who contact this organisation, feel shame at what you wrote, and join us in asking Mr Blunkett to confirm his commitment to the legal framework which guarantees help to the most vulnerable members of society.
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