Monday 5 December 2011

Advice on special educational needs

Another guest blogpost - this time from the organisation Independent Parental Special Education Advice (IPSEA) with some fab information about what IPSEA does and how they can help families of children with Special Educational Needs.

Independent Parental Special Education Advice – known as IPSEA

I asked Jane McConnell, Chief Executive of IPSEA, to tell us about their work. Jane became an IPSEA volunteer 10 years ago.  She has been a paid IPSEA staff member for the last 7 years.  She has a 12 year old son with complex SEN.  Jane has overcome several substantial hurdles to get the right education for him.  She has firsthand experience of what thousands of parents have to go through. 

What is IPSEA?

IPSEA is a registered charity providing free and independent legally based advice for parents whose children have SEN / disability. We have been supporting parents since 1983. IPSEA covers England and Wales. We use highly trained volunteers to deliver all our advice and support. We offer more support to the most disadvantaged families. A small team of paid part time staff co-ordinate and train our volunteers.

What does IPSEA do?

IPSEA advises families whose children have all types of SEN / disability, including behavioural problems, communication difficulties, learning disabilities and autism. IPSEA often helps families before their child has even been diagnosed. IPSEA’s legally based advice gives parents the confidence to exercise their rights. This basic understanding of the law equips families to be more involved in the decisions that affect them and helps them to avoid future issues. IPSEA helps around 3,000 families each year - thanks to our dedicated volunteers and supporters.

How can IPSEA help me?

IPSEA offers parents the following free services:
·        Website with over 80 resources
·        Free phone Advice Line for parents who are in negotiations with their local authorities, but not in a Tribunal situation
·        Local rate Tribunal Helpline advising parents who are taking a case to the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Tribunal
·        Tribunal casework support for those who need extra help
·        Monthly walk-in advice clinic in Saffron Walden
·        IPSEA on facebook and Twitter

Common problems

Many simpler and common issues with the SEN system can be resolved with the help of IPSEA’s on-line resources:
·        Understanding SEN jargon
·        Common problems when your child has SEN but no statement (cases 1-11)
·        Asking for a Statutory Assessment and getting the provision in place
·        Difficulties during the assessment (cases 12-15)
·        Issues that arise when you receive the proposed statement (cases 17-26)
·        Getting the final statement right (cases 27-30)
·        Common problems when your child has a statement (cases 31-40)
·        Exclusion fact sheets
·        Home/school transport

What parents say about IPSEA

Our website has quotes from parents we have helped. We survey the parents that have used our services to ask them for feedback. Their feedback helps us improve our services and secure the funding we need to keep them going.

Using parents’ experiences to influence change

IPSEA gathers evidence and uses it to lobby for changes to current legislation. We also attempt to correct the practices of local authorities whose policies are not in line with legislation. 

1,039 people took part in our SEN Green Paper survey.  796 of them were parents of a child with SEN.  They agree with IPSEA's strong belief that parents' views need to be listened to and respected by the professionals responsible for assessing and educating their children.  Without this basic respect, mistrust builds up.  This can have a detrimental effect throughout the child's education. 
IPSEA works constructively with the government. We were particularly pleased that the new administration activated the right of parents to make an appeal to the SEND Tribunal if their child’s Statement did not reflect the needs of the child.

We gave evidence to the parliamentary education committee on the SEN Green Paper. We also successfully campaigned to protect legal aid for SEN appeals.

Keeping IPSEA going

It costs IPSEA around £30 to provide telephone advice to a family and around £300 to provide a tribunal caseworker. We appreciate all the donations we receive. You can donate using PayPal or debit/credit cards. You can also set up regular donations.     

IPSEA is always looking for more volunteers. You need to complete our training first. This training is very thorough so we ask you to commit to actively volunteering with us for at least 2 years.  "I enjoy the feeling of empowering parents - talking them through their problem and sending them off with a clear plan of action" says one of our experienced volunteers. 

And back to me - what a really extensive range of services :)  I wish us parents of special needs kids didn’t need to use them….but great to know IPSEA has got your back when you do.  Thanks for a really informative, helpful guest post.

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