Families at 'breaking point' over lack of support for children with additional needs

Stock image of family health. Photo credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Concerns have been raised over the levels of support available to families of children with additional needs - Credit: PA

Parents have left at "breaking point" by a lack of support for children and young people with additional needs, a new survey has found.  

A survey was carried out by the Suffolk Parent Carer Network into the response of educational, health and care services during the pandemic.  

The survey found that 70% of families whose children and young people received regular services prior to lockdown reported no contact from mental health services at the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust. 

Parents also told the SPCN that children who were unable to access video or telephone calls because of their disabilities were being discharged against their wishes.  

Concerns were also raised regarding access to other support services during lockdown.  

Of the service users who took part in the survey, many rated Suffolk County Council service groups, like Family Health Services and County Inclusion Support Services, difficult or very difficult to communicate with.  

Clare Kingaby-Lewis, co-chairwoman of Suffolk Parent Carer Network said: “Families recognise that we are in the midst of a pandemic, are not unreasonable and understand that services may need to be offered differently,   

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“However, it is completely irresponsible to leave them with nothing.  

"Our most vulnerable children and young people - those with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities - have often struggled the most during the pandemic. 

"The additional strain placed on families has taken many to breaking point. 

"There are serious questions for both commissioners and providers to answer across education, health and care services about the tangible actions they have taken to address the issues and to prevent families experiencing the same again." 

A spokesman for NSFT said: “We know that some of our children and young people can struggle with telephone and video appointments, which have become more commonplace during the pandemic.

"We are continuing to offer face to face support where it is best for the patient and safe to do so." 

Mary Evans has served key roles at Suffolk County Council as deputy leader and with cabinet position

Suffolk County Council cabinet member for education, Mary Evans - Credit: Gregg Brown

Councillor Mary Evans, cabinet member for children’s services, education and skills at Suffolk County Council said: “Responding to the Covid-19 pandemic has been a challenge for all services and providers and we very much recognise how difficult this time has been for our SEND children, young people and their families. 

"I am determined that we learn from this report and the pictures it paints of the lived experience of families during lockdown to improve our services and build on what families tell us worked well for them.” 

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