SPCN to close amid slow pace of change in SEND services and parent abuse

School offer dates are coming up soon. Picture: DAVE THOMPSON/PA WIRE

Improvements to SEND services in Suffolk have not been efficient enough, SPCN has said - Credit: PA

Suffolk Parent Carer Network has announced that it will disband from Friday amid frustrations over the pace of change in special educational needs and disabilities services and abuse from some parents.

SPCN - a voluntary group of parents and carers which represents families and lobbies for service improvements - is the official parent carer forum for the county.

But a combination of the glacial pace of improvements in Suffolk's SEND services coupled with abuse from a cohort of parents the organisation is working to support, meant the entire management board opted to step down at its annual general meeting.

The board had agreed to stay on until June 18 to allow a new  board to be formed, but has now confirmed it will cease activity from Friday.

Anne Humphrys is a member of the Suffolk Parent Carer Network. Picture: ANNE HUMPHRYS

Anne Humphrys, chair of SPCN - Credit: Archant

In a statement, the organisation said: "SPCN understand the frustration many families feel that things are not changing for them quickly enough, we feel that same frustration and we couldn't feel more disappointed that all our challenge and efforts over the years has not brought about the big changes that families so desperately need. It may not have always been obvious, but SPCN have had an impact on effecting change and for that we are proud.

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"SPCN are known locally and nationally as not being afraid to challenge, but despite all of our efforts SPCN are not responsible for services actually making the recommended changes and sadly the belief from some families that we are, has meant the trust in SPCN has been lost and this has placed us in a very difficult position."

The board said that a system-change was needed in order to enable effective co-production work between services and parent carer forums in future, and said that "the wellbeing of the SPCN team has been significantly affected by the relentless criticism".

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In its annual general meeting, SPCN said there had been "two attempts by the local authority to dictate who could attend meetings on behalf of SPCN" and said "we felt as an organisation that we were actually having to argue about the feedback that we were providing".

Suffolk Parent Carer Network

Suffolk Parent Carer Network works with families - Credit: Suffolk Parent Carer Network

Among other SEND problems it mentioned were the continuing numbers of youngsters in unsuitable education provision, uncertainty for some families over where their child would be going to school, continuing instances where some families are not having their calls or emails responded to, and issues around Education Health and Care Plans.

A spokeswoman from Suffolk County Council cited the £45million plans to create 800 new SEND places, and improvements in issuing EHCPs among the improvements to date.

“We are grateful for the commitment that has been shown by members of the Suffolk Parent Carer Network and are saddened by its decision to close," the spokeswoman said.

“They have worked tirelessly to achieve a great deal in what can be an incredibly challenging area and we recognise, and sympathise, with some of their experiences with online abuse.

“Working with our partners, we have made significant improvements to SEND provision, but we appreciate there are still areas in which improvements must be made. The independent review we have announced to examine the communication and processes in place with families will help identity what is working well and where there may be gaps. We will then work to implement these follow-up recommendations.  

“SEND is one of our priorities and we continue to invest time and resource into improving provision.”

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