Our aim is to empower parents and carers, and to encourage them to become sufficiently confident to tackle for themselves the obstacles and difficulties that arise in battling for SEN rights. In turn, we hope they will use their knowledge and experience to help others.
We are based in Hampton Hill, Middlesex and offer our services throughout England and Wales. We run monthly walk-in advice centres in Hampton Hill, Thornton Heath and Aldershot, so that parents from surrounding local authorities such as London, Surrey, Hampshire, Kent and Middlesex can come to see us, if they have a particularly complex problem.
Where possible, we aim to offer help with the following:
- Interpreting official letters
- Interpreting the SEN Code of Practice and other related documents
- Checking proposed and amended SEN statements
- Helping prepare letters of request, comment and complaint
- Locating professional experts - e.g., independent educational psychologists, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, and lawyers
- Advising on how to prepare appeals to the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SENDIS) Tribunal
- Helping with complaints to the Local Government Ombudsman
In addition, we organize training workshops and other opportunities for parents and carers to come together.
All4Kids. We are greatly indebted not only to our growing team of volunteer staff but also to the ongoing support of parents who have previously been helped by SOS!SEN.
That team of volunteers began dealing with a growing number of cases, including representing parents at the SENDIS Tribunal. They also gave talks to groups of parents and carers, and organized meetings and workshops with eminent SEN experts as speakers.
In October 2002, the telephone helpline was launched. It arose from a recognition that there were many parents and carers who were not fully aware of their children’s rights to special education and did not understand the complexities of the official procedures necessary to obtain those rights. Furthermore, many did not have the financial resources to obtain the help of the legal profession, yet felt that they could not get anywhere without it. SOS!SEN believed that, whilst the role of lawyers and expert professionals was very important, much could be done to help, even if finances were limited.
In its first year, the helpline had 101 callers, giving rise to 56 long-term cases, on a variety of SEN topics. The cases covered six different local authorities.
By the end of 2005, just two years later, the number of calls had risen to 1,350 – prompting the following observation:
“We note that, where LEAs are attempting backdoor methods of reducing the number of statements or ignoring the requirement of specific, quantified and detailed provision, there is a growing number of calls from worried parents and an ever increasing move towards appeals to the High Court for Judicial Review and to the SENDIS Tribunal.”
During 2009, the SOS!SEN helpline fielded 6,000 calls. About 30 per cent were new referrals. In all, 55 families were provided with detailed support. Of these cases, 27 resulted in a victory for the parents at Tribunal. And a further 28 resulted in the local authority withdrawing from appeal and agreeing to the parents’ requests