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THE STRUGGLE IN SEND HURTS US ALL. IT’S A SIGN OF SOCIETY GONE WRONG By Tania Tirraoro.

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Dec 06 2018

 Yesterday I was interviewed by BBC TV news about the Ofsted Annual report. It’s not an unusual occurrence, being contacted by various news organisations to talk about the crisis in SEND. It’s just depressing after more than a decade – and four since the “reforms” – I’m still having to say the same thing.

Almost every report that comes out of charities, researchers, Ofsted and the DfE’s own commissioned research  – many of which we have covered on SNJ — reports the same picture: Not enough money, not enough SEND in teachers’ training, too many children being excluded, too many poor outcomes for disabled children, rising numbers heading to Tribunal, not enough mental health support in schools, too high criteria for access to CAMHS, insufficient support in mainstream, too, too many children in crisis.

It physically hurts to keep writing about it. And I know, from having been there, how much it hurts families going through it. I want to give up and run away and do something that actually pays, now my boys are older (My eldest was 21 earlier this week, my youngest is 19). But those families still deep in the hell that is the SEND process, and those about to plunge, cannot walk away; indeed, they know they MUST not walk away despite the stress, the hurt and the fury that the system invokes.

Behind the Ofsted report headlines

The headlines of the report were covered in the press yesterday, who can jump on it early but whose reporters miss the depth of context, so I’m adding further quotes from the report here.

The BBC producer I spoke to yesterday for example didn’t know about the SEND inquiry. This is why, although it’s heartening that I’m constantly asked for help by journalists covering the SEND story du jour, the fleeting nature of the news cycle means it’s forgotten the next day.

“Something is deeply wrong when parents repeatedly tell inspectors that they have to fight to get the help and support that their child needs. And I’m not talking about middle class parents wanting extra time in exams for their child. I mean adequate support for our most vulnerable children with SEND, which is a basic expectation of a decent, developed society. We need to do better.

Amanda Spielman, Ofsted Chief Inspector

The Ofsted report was damning in the extreme about SEND provision – all it had to do was look at the results of its own (and CQC’s) SEND area inspections, where almost half of those local areas so far inspected have failed to meet expectations. And we’re still not even halfway through the first round.

“In the second year of our local area SEND inspections, we have seen a continuing lack of coordinated 0–25 strategies and poor post-19 provision. We have seen a continuing trend of rising exclusions among children and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND). Mental health needs are not being supported sufficiently. The quality of education, health and care (EHC) plans is far too variable. Critically, the gap in performance and outcomes for children with SEND is widening between the best and the worst local areas.”

Ofsted Annual Report 2018

“We are still seeing too many local areas providing a sub-standard service when it comes to SEND provision. At the end of our second year of LA SEND inspections, we have inspected 68 local areas. Thirty of these have been required to provide a written statement of action.”

Ofsted Annual Report 2018

And, I might add, that any number of those areas who “passed” their SEND inspection should not have, according to local parents.

That translates to tens of thousands of disabled children being failed by their school, health service, social care and local authorities. And, as I said, that’s just from the areas that have been inspected so far. It’s sickening. Because these are not inanimate institutions, they are run by tax-payer-funded human beings who are systematically failing in their legal duties, and their jobs, to support vulnerable children.

It means children aren’t being assessed when they should be and when they do get an EHCP, it often isn’t legally compliant:

“… the quality of these (EHC) plans is far too variable within some local areas and across the country, and contributions from care services to EHC plans are weak. The areas that have successfully implemented the government’s reforms are jointly commissioning services that support parents and lead to good outcomes for young people….

…But many EHC plans have not been successfully implemented. As a result, the gap in outcomes for children with SEND continues to widen. Identification of SEND is weak and those who do not quite meet the threshold for an EHC plan have poor outcomes. Understandably, this leads to many parents feeling that to do the best for their children, they need to go to extreme lengths to secure an EHC plan, which of course not every child will need.”

Ofsted Annual Report 2018

Or at least they wouldn’t have needed and EHCP  if they’d had early enough intervention. LAs know early intervention works—and yet so many deny assessments at an early stage and have closed, or are planning to close, local Children’s Centres. They expect parents, often without cars, to be able to travel across or between towns via expensive or non-existent public transport – with children in tow – to get to their next nearest. Ain’t gonna happen.

“We are still seeing too many local areas providing a sub-standard service when it comes to SEND provision…Frontline workers are clearly dedicated and professional, but improvement in many local areas is often slow and inconsistent. In particular, in the areas we visited, we are seeing:

– a continuing trend of rising exclusions among children and young people who have SEND

– mental health needs not being supported

– children and young people who have autism waiting up to 2 years to be diagnosed; some were not being educated at all during this time

– a continuing lack of coordinated 0–25 strategies and poor post-19 provision”

Ofsted Annual Report 2018

Is funding to blame?

Yes, partly, but it’s far from the only reason. Lack of funding is integral, especially fully-resourcing the 16-25 year olds who were promised much, only to discover the Children and Families Act has played out like the proverbial Mercedes in the driveway but no food in the fridge. If that’s too obscure, it means it’s all show and no substance.

But it’s lack of culture change that is just as important. The very thing we have said from the beginning that was crucial to success. I haven’t heard much in the SEND inquiry about this specifically (though see more, further down).

Fine words about improving outcomes for children with SEND, as echoed in LAs up and down the land, have not, and are not, translating into changes in belief. It’s like their lips are moving but their heart’s not in it because somewhere, deep down, they think it’s either the fault of feckless or faulty parenting or, conversely, middle-class, sharp-elbowed parents “gaming the system”. I thought this attitude had disappeared, but I was asked this very question on LBC Radio just the other week. Yes, I gave him an ear-bashing, but the “hostile environment” brought by austerity and compounded by Brexit, has ramped up attitudes against anyone who needs to ask the state for some kind of help, against people with disabilities and against those from racial minorities.

Off-rolling, schools’ dirty little secret, uncovered (again)

Ofsted describs off-rolling as “the practice of removing a pupil from the school roll without a formal, permanent exclusion, or by encouraging a parent to remove their child from the school roll, when the removal is primarily in the interests of the school rather than in the best interests of the pupil. Off-rolling in these circumstances is a form of ‘gaming’’. 

This is not the same as a formal, legally conducted exclusion and Ofsted has identified around 300 schools with ‘exceptional levels’ of pupils coming off school rolls and not reappearing elsewhere, between Years 10 and 11. Ofsted acknowledges it’s the most vulnerable children who are more likely to be excluded or off-rolled. Its new education inspection framework (EIF) is aimed at changing this, by focusing more on inclusion as a mark of a good school, and less on league tables. Will it make a difference? Let’s keep watching.

Parents speak to the SEND Inquiry

At the same time as the Ofsted Annual Report was making news, six parents of disabled children were taking part in the SEND Inquiry hearings before the Education Select Committee in Westminster, three of whom represented parent carer forums.

The parents’ stories in the first half were bad and difficult to hear but not unique, far from it. They are stories we’ve heard repeatedly If you want to watch it all, you can do so here.

Earlier this week, the Inquiry published 600 submissions to the Inquiry and said it will still accept further submissions until the publication of the report.

To be honest, I’m not sure what else can be said that they have not already heard, unless it is more about how the lack of culture change has heavily impacted on these reforms. As we said at the start, there is little point in changing the structure of a system if those administering it are going to simply overwhelm it by doing the same things they’ve always done because ‘that’s the way they do it”

Taking up this theme was the stand-out speaker, for me, Penny Hoffman-Becking. Penny is from Kingston and Richmond where her PCF, SEND Family Voices, recently closedbecause the local authority was refusing to work with them, leaving them to conclude that co-production in that environment and culture just wasn’t possible.

I’ve isolated a few minutes of Penny speaking because what she says sums up the experience of many parents who have worked their guts out in PCFs, only to end up disillusioned and exhausted. I urge you to watch and tell us if that’s also your experience too.

The other issue is Brexit, yet again. If parliament is dissolved because of a snap election, the SEND Inquiry goes bye bye. And that really will be a tragedy.

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THE ROYAL PARKS HALF MARATHON 2018 LONDON IS DONE…THANKS TO ALL OF YOU WHO SUPPORTED ME FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART.

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Oct 15 2018

I really struggled yesterday for various reasons but I did it!  Here are some photos of me dancing wildly with my medal  – very happy in the knowledge that I have raised nearly £5,000!  Every penny of which will go to brave families with autistic children.  Lx 8e5af00b-f183-42e0-b42f-a5284c7e57a1 happy in the knowledge that I raised nearly £5,000 for all of the brave families with autistic children Lx Read more »

ROYAL PARKS HALF IS THIS WEEKEND -click on link for latest news on Lucinda and new photos!

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Oct 09 2018

Fred’s mum training in wild Co. Donegal for The Royal Parks Half https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fredfoundation…last big run before the big day. 2hrs 20. Done

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Oct 03 2018

PHOTO-2018-10-03-10-22-50PHOTO-2018-10-03-10-22-52PHOTO-2018-10-03-10-22-51PHOTO-2018-10-03-10-22-51 (1)PHOTO-2018-10-03-10-22-51

2017 Accounts

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Sep 09 2018

We have published our 2017 accounts which you may access below. If you have any queries please e mail

thefredfoundation@gmail.com

 

Signed accounts 2017

Renuke & friends at Spark Foundry UK supporting The Fred yet again! www.justgiving.com/fundraising/london2parisforfred

0 Comments | This entry was posted on May 21 2018

THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH FROM THE FRED!

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/london2parisforfred

On ‘NATIONAL SIBLINGS DAY’ WE JUST HAD TO SHARE – A SISTER WRITES….the truth is powerful

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Apr 17 2018

The Forgotten End of Autism

I spent last night in my room in peace. I went to bed around 11, watching a TV show and enjoying the silence of my house. My brother wasn’t home for the first time in a while, and we were able to relax for a few hours. The night before, I went to bed at 11, frustrated as I’d just had an argument with my mum. We were both exhausted as, for the fifth time that day, we’d dealt with my 17-year-old brother having a meltdown over – I kid you not – the Teletubbies.
There is no physical way to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced autism what the emotional labour is like on a family. It challenges one beyond what they think they can cope with, because it forces us to take a look at life’s fundamental question: what is the point?
The issue I broach is one that is rarely expressed in mainstream media and politics – that autism is not and never has been one uniform block of distinction. The actuality is this: autistic people are no more alike than neurotypical people; the condition is an intricate web of varying aptitudes, inabilities and struggles. There will never be an ‘accurate’ depiction of autism because it is not possible to instill the qualities of every autistic person into a single caricature, and that is widely acknowledged across the autism community.
Even so, there is a ‘general’ notion of an individual with autism. Lacking social skills, including eye contact and perception of emotion and tone. Sensory overload, instances of stimming. Whether we mean to or not, when we hear the word ‘autism’, we construct an image of what we assume the person mentioned will be like. We do not think of the ignored edge of the autistic spectrum.
The forgotten side of the spectrum falls to the “low-functioning” children; the ones who cannot feed themselves without making a mess, or perhaps not at all. The incontinent teenagers, the barely verbal adults. Those whose ‘mental age’ is much less than their physical. People like my brother, Stephen, who seem to exist only in their immediate family circle.
For us, it is simple yet heartbreaking. Stephen will never be able to live independently. He requires constant supervision, can’t talk beyond basic requests, can’t use the toilet or dress himself; he can’t so much as cross the road by himself. He doesn’t grasp the notions of money and spending, or even of life in general. His autism is so severe that his world revolves around a rigorous routine of school and home. He thinks in numbers and colours and children’s TV shows. In brutal honesty, I don’t believe he knows what day it is. ‘Mainstream’ is a word that hasn’t left our lips in years.
First of all, nobody truly recognises how tough it is merely to care for someone who needs assistance with everything. Stephen is 6 ft. 2 and has to be bathed, washed and nappies changed. Physically, and mentally, it is downright exhausting. His sleep schedule is non-existent and his meltdowns are unpredictable. His self-harming happens unexpectedly and can last for indeterminate amounts of time. These are the children you don’t see in autism awareness adverts; headbutting walls, smacking their heads, nipping and biting and scratching. It is the most draining thing to devote hours upon hours simply trying to prevent someone from hitting themselves, and a task that seems so stupid and meaningless in nature when you know that, come a few hours’ time, it will simply happen again.
Secondly, there is no general understanding of severe autism sought. I mean, who can I tell? Family rarely if ever come to visit him, be it for reasons of ignorance or genuine lack of awareness. There is only so much empathy my employers can show me when they have never met him. I worry that friends won’t comprehend, or that they won’t want to know him. I positively panic that potential boyfriends will be put off by him, or reject the idea that he has to come first in my life. The media show nobody like him; journalists don’t bother to highlight our situation. Politicians have never asked what we might need. We are completely and utterly alone at our side of the spectrum, in the dark and in the cold.
I am 19; I should spend my days fretting about having enough money to go out at the weekend and passing exams to get my degree. My biggest fear about the future should be whether I’m going to achieve my dream job, what countries I will travel to. Instead, I worry about what will become of my brother. He understands nothing of pain and manipulation and danger. My brother is so bearing on the spectrum that he needs round the clock care, and when I am the only one left to do that, how will I cope?
And you know what? I love him so much. I love him more than anything in this world, because if anything he is pure. He doesn’t know anything of sickness and pain; he has no awareness of hatred. All he knows is his little bubble of love and care that we provide for him, and in some ways I envy him. He makes me laugh with his wittiness and smarts, and he has kept me going through some rough times. He is a positive influence on my life, and I am not taking away from what he is or has done for me.
But the reality is this: we are tired, and we are alone. Families on the severe end of the spectrum feel they cannot write into support groups, because often their experiences feel too extreme. It is impossible to ever establish a sense of normality, or to lull ourselves into the illusion that things will get better. Our children and family members are not just struggling socially, but struggling merely to exist, to function. With no consciousness among the general public of how hard it truly is, there is no relief from this feeling. We simply have to get on with it. We must continue to take care and love a person who will never comprehend what we have done for him, how much we have sacrificed for him, and will never thank us for it.
Understand this also: if you are part of a neurotypical family, you take much for granted that we will never experience. Family dinners out don’t exist. Holidays could never happen. Stephen will never attend a school disco, bring friends over for dinner, or bring home a partner. I will never get to ask him, “do you want kids?” There will be no wedding for me to attend. Never will he have the satisfaction of a job, a home, a sense of fulfilment in this world.
This is what makes my heart ache the most: my brother simply doesn’t understand his own existence.
This is why, when asked the loaded and complicated question of, “would you take away Stephen’s autism if you could?”, my answer is yes. He doesn’t understand his actions, or the consequences of them – the hurt and exhaustion, but also the happiness and love, that he brings on our family. He makes no decisions about himself or his future, and has no comprehension of any normal, everyday concepts that we grasp so simply. We all want the best for our children; all Stephen wants is a box of Teletubbies and a can of Diet Coke.
We don’t have the luxury of forgetting about it. You probably don’t see these children often – families find it hard to take them out in public, as it is much too stressful and we are judged immensely. These children don’t attend your children’s schools; they simply pass you in traffic on a bus, so you don’t have to experience their presence. You have the luxury of avoiding “low-functioning” children altogether.  In a 24 hour, 7-week job, we do not.
The reality is that it cannot be taken away. Whatever becomes of us, we will continue caring for Stephen far into the future. All that I ask for in this time is awareness of the hardships autistic families go through in the meagre task of existing, of living at home. As invisible as we may be in everyday life, we are here, sacrificing normality in the name of love. Don’t forget about us.
Katrina xo

Stephen and I with his beloved Teletubbies. lol
Taken from “KATRINA MC Blog – Lipstick and Politics In which I document my views on makeup and why democracy doesn’t exist. Sometimes.”
____________

*The first somewhat mainstream representation of the broader spectrum of autism that I have ever come across is Louis Theroux’s Extreme Love: Autismwhich shows children attempting to navigate their way through a mainstream school, verbal children on the cusp of being integrated into “normal” life, all the way to children who are barely or non-verbal and have serious self-harm issues. For those willing to delve into the world of autism, it’s a good start. It is available to stream on Netflix.

FAMILIES sidelined by law on over 18s with learning disabilities…The Sunday Times 18.02.18

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Feb 18 2018

To think that as a parent,  you have given much of  your life over to  caring for a profoundly autistic child with no mental capacity, then, when they reach 18, the authorities don’t have to include you in any decision about them is pretty galling.  Sometimes the only way you can be included is to  fight for something called ‘Deputyship’ or go for a Judicial Review – not many can afford that and why should they…..’

Article from The Times below:

‘Parents of children with autism and other learning disabilities want to use a test case to challenge a law that sidelines families when a child turns 18.

Rosa Monckton, whose daughter, Domenica, 23, has Down’s syndrome, said that although the children might technically be young adults, they lack the mental capacity to make key decisions.

Monckton said she had heard from “hundreds” of distraught families who had been ignored as officials made “terrible decisions” for their children.

Under the Mental Capacity Act 2005, parents who want to be the decision maker for a young adult must ask the Court of Protection for “deputyship” — awarded only in very difficult cases.

Families sidelined by law on over-18s with learning disabilities

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/families-sidelined-by-law-on-over-18s-with-learning-disabilities-hdht5l2wk

ROCKET ARTISTS PRESENT ‘ART BY (the amazing) JOHNNY EXHIBITION’ April 2nd-29th – please click on link for all info and press release……

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Jan 17 2018

PRESS RELEASE Rocket Artists present Art By Johnny[2]

Johnny has a book of his art coming out 2nd April. Art By Johnny

 

Angela and Henry Normal’s book about Johnny ‘A Normal Family’ comes out 20th March.

 

Henry Normal’s  third BBC Radio 4 show ‘A normal love’ was recorded recently and goes out 13th and 14th feb (Valentine’s Day).

The Fred Foundation Accounts 2016

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Oct 19 2017