Case for change

1. Every child deserves a fair start in life, with the very best opportunity to succeed. Currently, life chances for the approximately two million children and young people in England who are identified as having a special educational need (SEN), or who are disabled, are disproportionately poor.

2. Disabled children and children with SEN tell us that they can feel frustrated by a lack of the right help at school or from other services. For children with the most complex support needs, this can significantly affect their quality of life. Hundreds of thousands of families have a disabled child or a child with SEN, and parents say that the system is bureaucratic, bewildering and adversarial and that it does not sufficiently reflect the needs of their child and their family life.

3. Whilst the circumstances of children, young people and their parents differ greatly; from young people requiring a few adjustments in class to children with life-limiting long-term conditions, families have many shared concerns. The system to support children and young people who are disabled or who have SEN often works against the wishes of families. Children’s support needs can be identified late; families are made to put up with a culture of low expectations about what their child can achieve at school; parents don’t have good information about what they can expect and have limited choices about the best schools and care for their child; and families are forced to negotiate each bit of their support separately.