A Suffolk parent has said the outlook for the families of children with special educational needs and/or disabilities is "bleaker than ever" after Ofsted declined a meeting with three SEND groups during their inspection of the county's services. 

On Monday, Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission started a three-week inspection of SEND services in Suffolk which will look into Suffolk County Council and NHS health partners' support of children and families.

Toni Wasag, of Failed by Suffolk, said the group, along with Parents and Carers Together (PACT) and Campaign for Change, the three of which represent 3,000 combined parents and carers, invited Ofsted to meet with them, but the invitations were declined.

She said Ofsted will instead meet with the Suffolk Parent Carer Forum. 

East Anglian Daily Times: Toni Wasag (middle) pictured at a SEND protest in Ipswich earlier this yearToni Wasag (middle) pictured at a SEND protest in Ipswich earlier this year (Image: Charlotte Bond)

"We believe that this will impede the ability of Ofsted seeing a realistic view on the difficulties with SEND services and we believe it's disrespectful to deny parents whose children's education and/or health have been destroyed or at least damaged by failures of SCC and health," said Ms Wasag.

"The lived experience for parent carers and their children is bleaker than ever." 

She said she believed the groups would have been able to provide Ofsted with "valuable insight" into the service in the county.

"We hope they will see that is in the best interest of parent carers to have a broader view on the difficulties in Suffolk SEND," she added. 

SEND services are a growing issue in the county, with frustrated parents staging peaceful protests throughout the last few years.

More than £78,000 was paid out to families making educational complaints in Suffolk in 2022/23, with the majority of cases relating to special educational needs provision.

East Anglian Daily Times: Other SEND families pictured at a protest in IpswichOther SEND families pictured at a protest in Ipswich (Image: Charlotte Bond)

One parent said: "We keep hearing about 'improvements' in terms of things done, new placements, new websites, but we don't seem to be seeing improvements to outcomes.

"We have 0% EHCP deadline compliance, exclusions up 60% (almost all SEND), worst local government ombudsman complaints especially concerning EHCP compliance."

Another parent said: "Why are the ‘improvements’ not being felt by ANY of the service users/clients?

"Why are they neglectful in their legal duties? It costs nothing for manners ie returning a call to a parent.

"Why does the ombudsman uphold so many complaints if there are such improvements? Why do Suffolk keep bringing in consultants at such a huge costs? The list is endless." 

And a child who has no SEND needs but has two siblings with SEND, and whose parent had been spending 15 hours a week trying to get them support, said: "I want the council to to stop getting it wrong. I want mummy to stop spending hours having to email and phone them. I want her to be able to come and play with us."

East Anglian Daily Times: Rachel Hood, cabinet member for SEND at Suffolk County Council talking to protestors earlier this yearRachel Hood, cabinet member for SEND at Suffolk County Council talking to protestors earlier this year (Image: Charlotte Bond)

Of the declined invitation to meet with Failed by Suffolk, PACT and Campaign for Change, an Ofsted spokesperson said: "The views of parents and carers are an essential part of Area SEND inspections and inspectors consider all views that are shared with them.

"Families are encouraged to feed into the inspection through the parent and carer survey or via the Suffolk Parent Carer Forum. Survey questions have been designed to gather evidence that directly informs judgements." 

While they said it is not possible to meet with individual parents or lots of different groups, they said they seek to gather views of families through a range of inspection activity.

An inspection survey is ongoing, which parents can fill out online at https://ofsted.smartsurvey.co.uk/p/AreaSend/10284398.

On Monday, Suffolk County Council encouraged parents to complete the survey, which will close at 9am on November 7. 

Councillor Rachel Hood, cabinet member for education, SEND and skills, said: "It is important that Ofsted get a full picture of SEND services in Suffolk and day to day experiences. 

"They would like to hear for everyone - those who have opinions about where improvement can be made and those who are satisfied with the services they receive. Every voice is welcome."