The Rhondda AM has written to the Welsh Education Minister about the lack of support for pupils on the autistic spectrum.
Leanne Wood was following up a question she asked in the Senedd of Kirsty Williams earlier this month. During that questions, Ms Wood highlighted the fact that the Welsh Government has not fulfilled a promise to give all teacher autism training and the fact that some local authorities are wrongly telling parents that they can no longer obtain a Statement of Special Educational Needs for their child. A statement will describe the needs of the child in question and lay out the specialist help and provision required to meet those needs.
Changes to the Additional Learning Needs system do not take effect until September 2020 – until then local authorities are obliged to comply with the duties placed upon them by the Education Act 1996 and the SEN Code of Practice for Wales.
In response to a survey on autism she has distributed over the last week, Leanne has been inundated with accounts from parents who have had to fight for the support their children need after being met with obstruction from the local authority.
Now, in her letter to Education Minister Kirsty Williams, Leanne writes: ‘In questions in the Senedd on Wednesday 3rd July, you expressed your concern at my assertion that people are being told that their local authority “no longer does statements.”
‘I’m sure you will be aware that there are 720 children on the autism spectrum who receive at least some support in Rhondda Cynon Taf. In Wales, there are 7,655 pupils receiving support. Of those in RCT with autism, more than half – 385 – have a statement. The Wales-wide figure for pupils in the autism spectrum is 4,258. Overall, one third of all pupils with statements are autistic.
‘If the current system was working well, why have parents and guardians on behalf of autistic pupils lodged more appeals to the Education Tribunal than those with any other condition over recent years? The number of appeals has increased by 86% between 2012 and 2016, which speaks for itself. ‘A survey carried out by the National Autistic Society Cymru back in 2015 of parents with children on the autism spectrum, found that 49% are not happy with the education and support received by their child.’
She adds: ‘These figures have been backed up with the concerns of my constituents. Over the past week my office has received a number of accounts from residents from the Rhondda and beyond detailing the difficulties they have experienced in receiving statements for their children. This has understandably had a detrimental effect on their education, having not having the necessary access to the additional support they need and deserve. One concerned mother has told me that she had to prove her son was unable to flourish in mainstream education by putting him through two terms of unsupported education, effectively setting him up to fail so that he could access the right education. She is upset that she was forced to subject her child to this exercise of purposeful failure just to get him the support he needs. Another parent tells me that they had to consult with a solicitor and threaten the local authority with legal action to access the right support, after they were refused statutory assessments on numerous occasions. This process was repeated for their other children who had similar needs. This is clearly not an option available to all parents – it should not be an option at all when seeking adequate support for children.
‘Others are frustrated with the inability of their GPs or consultants to refer children, as they are told that the process must go through the schools. One parents who contacted me tells me there are currently 18 other children already on their school’s waiting list, and that there is an approximate waiting list of 15 months for assessment.
‘I look forward to hearing from you.’
If you agree with Leanne, please click this link to get involved with Plaid Cymru.