MPs slam ‘shocking’ special needs system figures

A third of all 18-year-olds with special educational needs are not in any form of education, work or training, a government committee has revealed.

The Commons Public Accounts Committee, in a report which was issued today, described the figure as “shocking” and said that too many young people are “falling through the gaps” once they leave school.

They also said the system is complex and parents need to know more about what support their child is entitled to.

However, the government say they are determined to make the system “simpler, fairer and more transparent”.

Margaret Hodge MP: “It is shocking that almost a third of young people with a statement of special educational needs at the age of 16 are not in any form of education, employment or training two years later.”

The committee’s report into special education for young people aged 16 to 25 said the government spent £640 million on special education in 2009-10 for people in the age group.

Margaret Hodge MP, the chair of the Committee, said: “It is shocking that almost a third of young people with a statement of special educational needs at the age of 16 are not in any form of education, employment or training two years later.

“The government spent £640 million on special education for 16-to 25-year-olds in 2009-10, yet too many of these young people are falling through the gaps after they leave compulsory education, damaging their life chances and leaving a legacy of costs to the taxpayer.

She added: “The system is extremely complex and difficult to navigate, with an array of different providers including schools, FE colleges and specialist providers.

“Too many parents and young people are not given the information they need to make decisions about what is right for them, with many losing hope.

“Parents need to know what support their child is entitled to, how it can be accessed, and how well different options would meet their child’s needs.

“But three quarters of local authorities do not give parents information at all about the respective performance of schools, FE colleges and specialist providers.”

Children’s minister Sarah Teather said disabled young people or those with special educational needs “all too often” fall through the gaps in services when they reach 16.

She added: “That’s why we have proposed the biggest programme of reform in 30 years.

“This includes a new, single education, health and care plan from birth to 25 focussed on improving the outcomes for those with the most severe needs.

“This will mean local services all working together to provide targeted support, with young people and their families getting much more information and advice on preparing for further education and work.”

Children’s minister Sarah Teather: “We are determined to make the system simpler, fairer and more transparent. We will shortly be updating on progress on delivering these reforms.”

She also said the Youth Contract will invest roughly an extra £1 billion in the next three years to support 16-24 year olds into education, training and work.

The minister added: It’s encouraging to see the PAC’s support for our proposals for funding changes.

“We are determined to make the system simpler, fairer and more transparent. We will shortly be updating on progress on delivering these reforms.”

The report was based on evidence from the Department for Education, the Young People’s Learning Agency, the Principal of Abingdon and Witney College, and representatives of two organisations which provide support and information to young people and professionals about special education, Disability Alliance and nasen.