We take a closer look at one of Totum’s chosen charities in 2022: Support SEND Kids. How does it work with parents to ensure children get the special educational needs they require? And why is that so important to the success of our future working society?

As we speed further into 2022, and the threat of Omicron appears to be receding, there is a feeling that we are entering a new era. Not only is the hybrid workplace taking root but we are more aware than ever of the need to ensure our professional communities improve levels of diversity and inclusivity as we move forwards.

In this respect, one area of vital importance (but sadly still too often overlooked) is how we accommodate for the needs of colleagues and employees who are neurodivergent and/or have a disability. We wrote an article on autism in the workplace a few months back, including a focus on why businesses will perform better if we embrace different ways of thinking.

But success goes right back to our education system and ensuring that children with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) get the best support possible to ensure they can thrive, not only through their childhoods but on into the working world. All children have suffered during the pandemic but SEND children have struggled even more as they were excluded from normal routines during successive lockdowns.  

Support SEND kids

This is one of the reasons why, for 2022, one of Totum’s chosen three charities (who will be our focus for long-term partnership and fundraising activities) is Support SEND Kids. This small charity, launched in 2020, provides a free-to-access online platform that brings together professionals (particularly lawyers and advocates) to help parents navigate the incredible complexities of the education, health and care plan (EHCP) system, so that they can access the educational support their children need to fulfil their potential.

Even if we do not have SEND children ourselves, we will all know friends and family who have children who need extra support to succeed in their education. But what is more hidden is the huge difficulty parents face in securing that support – or indeed in even understanding the hugely complex terminology, documentation and requirements that must be met to attain the right EHCP for their child’s needs.

While Local Authorities may conduct EHC needs assessments for children requiring a higher level of support in school, parents often end up having to resort to legal action. The principle reasons for this are: the Local Authority refuses to undertake a needs assessment; a needs assessment is undertaken but the child is not awarded an EHCP after the assessment has taken place; or an EHCP has been awarded but the contents of the plan do not adequately meet a child’s needs.

And, with very little legal aid available, parents must go to tribunal at their own cost, often representing themselves against experienced local authority lawyers. Nor are the costs recoverable, even if their case is successful.

No wonder then, that even though over 90% of appeals are upheld at Tribunal, the process is so long, gruelling and expensive that many parents are put off trying. And in the end, it’s not just individuals and families that lose out from that, but the success of our future society.

Making a difference

Support SEND Kids aims to address this by providing a platform that cuts through the many complexities of the EHCP system. Using a simple Q&A format, it brings together parents and professionals to answer queries, provide advice and share experiences. Questions may vary from relatively simple queries seeking to clear up confusing terminology to more detailed questions on how to approach failed applications or tribunal processes.

Our Consultant Liz Chappell is closely involved with the charity. She answers questions on the Support SEND Kids online platform as a parent of a neurodiverse child, who has direct experience of the struggles parents face in this area. But she also supports the charity as a Content and Community Manager ensuring consistency of information given across the site and checking the site’s quality and supportive tone is maintained.

We are delighted that Liz is making a difference in this way – and we support everyone in our team to get involved in charity and voluntary work that can benefit our community, our future workplaces and society more broadly.

As a firm, we look forward to playing our part in progressing the great work of Support SEND Kids as it further develops its platform in the months ahead. We will keep you updated on progress!

If you would like any further information on Support SEND Kids or how we are involved with the charity, contact Liz Chappell at [email protected]