Written evidence submitted by the Information, Advice and Support Network

About the Information, Advice and Support Network

As part of the Children and Families Act 2014 it is a legal requirement that all local authorities ensure children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) & their parents have access to an impartial Information, Advice and Support (IAS) service. The IASSN are funded by the Department for Education (DfE) to support this.

We do this by:

The IASS Network is based within the Council for Disabled Children in the National Children's Bureau.

The substantial part of our submission takes the form of two case studies from local SENDIAS services which detail the complexity of the lives and experiences of some children and young people who are often absent from school and how access to and support from a SENDIAS service makes a difference. SENDIAS services are mainly small and under resourced services, with an average spend of £1.22 per head of population (CYP 0-25) and a staffing average of 2.9 FTE.


In addition, and alongside our support of the Special Education Consortium submission which we are a part of, we would like the enquiry to consider these additional points which we do not think are adequately reflected in the current discourse.



Case Studies from local SENDIAS services


Challenges in supporting a young person with SEND, who is a school refuser.

(Names have been changed for anonymity)

Mary’s mother first contacted our service early in October as she was becoming increasingly worried about her daughter’s attendance at school. Although her daughter had managed Year 4 with no major issues, since returning in September, she had not settled well and was becoming more reluctant to go into school. Although at this point her daughter had no specific SEN diagnosis, mum strongly felt that she had underlying sensory issues and social communication difficulties, which had not been identified.

The situation for this family was made more complex by the child attending a school within another borough, which complicated and delayed matters with referrals to other support services. The parent also disclosed to SENDIASS that she herself had some mental health issues, which meant that she found attending school meetings very challenging.  She also had younger children at the school, who also had SEN.

SENDIASS contacted the school and an initial meeting to look at the attendance issues was organised for mid- October. By this point, due to the severity of the attendance issues, an Educational Psychologist had seen Mary although this assessment had to take place at home.  Mary was now also under her local CAMHs service. Her primary needs seemed to focus on her need to withdraw from the rest of her family, her inability to tolerate clothing and her complete focus on her laptop to the exclusion of any other activity.

Mary had largely stopped engaging with any friends she had previously and would only occasionally visit family members. At this point, her parents were increasingly frustrated with the CAMH’s service as they felt they were focusing too much on their parenting skills and not on the intrinsic needs they felt Mary had.

There was a significant amount of pressure on the family and SENDIASS supported the parent through numerous emails and phone calls identifying various options for further action and identifying school responsibilities. SENDIASS also referred into the local Early Help team on behalf of the family.

The school were largely very supportive of the family, whom they knew well. The Head Teacher regularly conducted home visits to support trying to get Mary back into school. SENDIASS liaised with the school and family to look at various strategies to encourage Mary’s return using reward systems and part timetables. Unfortunately, none of these were successful.

At the meeting, it was agreed that despite some gaps in evidence the school would submit a request for statutory assessment in the hope that further assessments would offer more information on how best to support Mary back into education. Mary’s parents felt very strongly that Mary had undiagnosed autism, and this was the main issue behind her non- attendance.

The situation at home was increasingly stressful for the family. The attendance officer was now also involved as it was explained to the family that even if Mary was diagnosed with ASC, it would not mean that she should not attend school. It was agreed at the TAC meeting that a child in need referral would go in from the school to children’s services. There was considerable concern about how Mary’s behaviour was impacting on her younger siblings. The situation with school at this point was quite strained so again SENDIASS liaised with both parties to improve the relationship largely through emails and phone calls.

This case is not yet concluded as the assessment for Mary by the Local Authority has not yet been completed, due to the parent’s own difficulties. It is anticipated that they will require ongoing support and advice to support Mary’s return to education in the future.

This case has highlighted some of the challenges facing families, where their child has become a school refuser. This is an area that SENDIASS are seeing an increasing number of referrals. Where there are ongoing attendance issues there is often underlying SEN, and this can be difficult to unpick as the relationship between the two parties can become strained. This is where SENDIASS can mediate, whilst stressing the importance of school attendance to the parent.



Case Study- Young Person- B

The context that your service is working in:


Young Person- B was referred to the service as they were disengaging from education. Attendance was extremely low and there were disruptive behaviours exhibited in school. Support in school had been in place on a 1:1 basis, but not successful in increasing engagement.


No notice letter had been received after review.  The carer for the Previously Looked After child thought that Alternative Provision was necessary due to the lack of engagement in school.


School had formally expressed that they could not support YP-B’s needs, as the placement was not suitable for their age, ability or aptitude and the attendance had a detrimental effect on others education. The LA directed the school, in order to place Young person -B.


YP is Previously Looked After Child, but also has been diagnosed with ARND (alcohol-related Neurodevelopmental Disorder), concerns were raised about anxiety, and/or attachment and trauma. CAMHS were not involved, no assessments had been done regarding anxiety, attachment and trauma.



The issue faced:


The Young Person-B was not attending education- only 1 hour a day, which at times was still not sustainable. School said that several members of staff would try to engage with the young person, but this would escalate in being disruptive in corridors, often escalating to the young person being verbally abusive. 1:1 support had been utilised, however had not been successful.

The young person’s voiced that they did not want to attend this school but wanted to attend somewhere with less numbers of Young People and smaller classes.

School had responded with concern that Young Person-B needed to be supported by a setting specialised in supporting those with anxiety. The Education Health Care Plan (EHCP) was not up-to-date and did not incorporate Health and social Care advice/views around anxiety or possible attachment and trauma issues. This made it difficult for the Local Authority to place the Young Person in those settings without evidence. Needs were not accurately identified and therefore impacted on the correct provision. Education Psychology assessment had to be completed remotely through the EHC assessment, which hindered the ability to do a detailed report.


The support provided by the service:


Support was given prior to mediation so that the carer understood the implications of the legal parts of the EHCP and the reports necessary to update the plan.

Communication with Health and also social care were made to try and ensure that actions could be agreed prior to mediation/tribunal. Health agreed for referral to go into CAMHS for anxiety. (Completed by school) Request to see if social care could give further support in regards to assessment for attachment and trauma- declined, case was closed to the family due to not accessing Direct Payments.

Carer was supported at mediation- with a view that actions had been agreed to move things forwards to ensure content of EHC would be correct, which may influence section I. Local Authority agreed EHC would be redrafted- with additional information from the Educational Psychology report, which highlighted the need for a smaller setting.

Carer agreed to wait for the revised EHC plan before proceeding to possible appeal.

Local Authority consulted with more specialist settings due to parental preference.

Communication with social care continued, social care re-submitted supporting evidence. Evidence submitted was appropriate for historic backgrounds- section A. However, did not highlight current need and possible support needed. Advice given to social worker, that if it escalates to an appeal, it could be an ‘extended appeal’, where additional information and assessments could be requested, and tribunal directions would be issued.

Local Authority are now consulting with specialist placements/Alternative Provision. Is likely to be resolved but delayed due to placement availability.

The service supported the carer to submit an appeal, whilst the Local Authority continued to consult with several settings. The majority of settings responded that they were not suitable to support the Young Person.

The carer went to visit one setting with the Young Person and spoke with the Head teacher there. They requested this as a possible solution. The Local Authority consulted, and the school were supportive. The Local Authority then named the setting in section I of the plan. The carer decided to withdraw appeal and use the review mechanism to update sections B and F in the plan, as this process would be quicker than waiting for tribunal.

February 2023