Five years on, different faces, and same council failures.

Suffolk parents of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) have recounted a catalogue of failings, and describe being ignored, calling the county council's apologies "a sham".

The comments come after a damning Ofsted report criticised "widespread and/or systemic failings" in the Suffolk local area partnership.

Back in March 2019, this newspaper featured a front page of families who said they had been let down by the SEND service in Suffolk.

The faces may have changed, but the situation seems to be much of the same.

In the wake of the Ofsted report being published earlier this week, Nicola Beach, chief executive of Suffolk County Council, admitted the service was "not good enough", accepted its findings and apologised to families.

Many Suffolk parents have told this newspaper they have waited weeks, or even a year, for an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), which is set up to describe the child's needs and the health and social care provision that is needed to meet them.

Danielle Valentino, from Felixstowe, has a son who experienced a brain haemorrhage before he was born and was also provided with an EHCP full of inaccuracies.

East Anglian Daily Times: Danielle Valentino with her childrenDanielle Valentino with her children (Image: Contributed)

She said: “They were writing medical needs they knew was wrong.

“I didn’t feel comfortable with that. I didn’t want my son to have an EHCP because I didn’t want information, I knew was wrong having my name attached to it.

“In eight years, nothing has changed. It’s just got worse.”

Michelle Girling from Bury St Edmunds, whose five-year-old son is severely autistic and non-verbal, said she has experienced failure after failure in his EHCP, after his draft plan came through full of inaccuracies.

East Anglian Daily Times: Michelle Girling and her familyMichelle Girling and her family (Image: Contributed)

This was then tweaked, but the final version sent to schools was the original incorrect plan, which didn’t reflect his needs.

Ms Girling said: “Sorry is not good enough. If I had done this in my job, my head would have rolled. There is no accountability.

“I kept emailing but couldn’t get through to anyone. We have been emailing and messaging. We were left dangling.

“When you have a child with complex needs, you don’t need the extra stress of trying to find them a school space.

“Every child is entitled to an education that suits their needs, parents should not feel like they must jump through burning hoops to achieve this.”

Ian Young, from Newmarket, whose son Charlie, 19, is blind with cerebral palsy, said he has experienced 17 years of "battles".

East Anglian Daily Times: Ian Young, from Newmarket, has criticised the county councilIan Young, from Newmarket, has criticised the county council (Image: Contributed)

“Every transition he has ever had has been messed up,” Mr Young said.

“Moving from primary to secondary education, from specialist to 19-25. EHCPs have constantly been late, we have been let down constantly.

“This has been an issue since the day he started under SEND provision when he was two-and-a-half.

“Every single thing has been a battle, over 17 years.

“We found a placement in 2022 for SEND-19-25 provision, but Suffolk County Council took months to confirm this with the setting and arrange costings.

“I chased them many times over the months. What would have happened if I hadn’t done this?

“A letter was meant to be sent, but was left in drafts. It’s just incompetence, and it’s happening all the time. We are ignored. We feel angry, annoyed, upset."

Nicola Graham, from Bury St Edmunds, has two children with additional needs. Three-year-old Annie has complex needs and cannot cope with mainstream school.

East Anglian Daily Times: Nicola Graham and familyNicola Graham and family (Image: Contributed)

“I had to fight them for provision for my child for two years, and then had to start the battle with my second. It has been a complete mess,” she said.

“The council lost the request for the EHCP, we chased them for it, and then they lost it again. I’m not sure how that’s possible.

“The reply came and said they would breach the legal timescales because of a shortage of sites and she wouldn’t be assessed in time.

“She has now lost half of her early year’s funding because she cannot attend.”

Penny Stapleton, from Bury St Edmunds, said she needs extra support at home for 14-year-old Grayston, who is severely autistic and non-verbal and needs an operation to lengthen his Achilles.

East Anglian Daily Times: Penny Stapleton and familyPenny Stapleton and family (Image: Contributed)

They will need a social worker for 24-hour care, but this has not yet been arranged.

Ms Stapleton said: “We need equipment to support Grayston living at home, and a support plan.

“We need transport to take him to and from school. We are absolutely terrified by the operation."

Rachel Hood, Suffolk County Council's cabinet member for SEND, said earlier this week: “We are sorry that experiences and outcomes of some children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities are not as good as they should be, and as we want them to be.

East Anglian Daily Times: Rachel Hood, of Suffolk County CouncilRachel Hood, of Suffolk County Council (Image: Simon Lee Photography/Suffolk County Council)

“The report has confirmed that we already know where our problems are and we will continue with our programme of significant investment and reform so that improvements are felt by all."