Parents of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) who feel they are battling the system should not lose hope, said Gillian Keegan, Secretary of State for Education, during a visit to Bury St Edmunds. 

Ms Keegan said the Department for Education has developed a SEND Improvement Plan in order to tackle ongoing issues with provisions all over the country. 

Suffolk is no exception, with several rallies and protests arranged by disgruntled parents in recent months, and more than £78,000 paid out to families making educational complaints in the county in 2022/23.

Speaking at an event in Bury St Edmunds, Ms Keegan said: "You speak to any parent of a child with special educational needs and they will be thinking they are battling the system trying to get access to services that are vital for their child.

"You speak to the special educational needs schools or schools and they will say they are not getting enough support. 

East Anglian Daily Times: Gillian Keegan during her visit to Bury St EdmundsGillian Keegan during her visit to Bury St Edmunds (Image: Charlotte Bond)

"And then you speak to the treasury and they will say it is costing us 60% more than it was a few years ago, its now £10.5billion we are spending on this. 

"We are spending lots and lots more money but nobody is feeling the benefit of it." 

Ms Keegan said the problem is worsened by the fact that there are now more children who need SEND help due to increased knowledge about diagnoses. 

"I know we need to improve services. I know we need to make it easier for parents. I know we need to build more special educational needs places, we need schools with the right facilities to really optimise a child's life," she said.

"We are training up 600 more educational phycologists, 7,000 more SENCos, we've got speech and language therapists being trained throughout the NHS workforce plan, so we know what we need to do."

She said government plans for early years childcare support packages will also enable children to be diagnosed earlier.

East Anglian Daily Times: Gillian Keegan speaking to parents about the planned childcare support packagesGillian Keegan speaking to parents about the planned childcare support packages (Image: Charlotte Bond)

In a message to parents who are struggling to find support for their children, Ms Keegan said: "There is definitely hope in the future. Don't lose hope.

"Get in touch with your MP actually, I often help people with individual cases. MPs are often there ready to help if you are battling the system. 

"I fully understand it, I have a nephew with special educational needs myself so I have seen it very closely. 

"It will take a bit of time but the SEND Improvement Plan is there because we've heard you."