Home   Bury St Edmunds   News   Article

Subscribe Now

Petition launched by Bury St Edmunds mum Nikki Graham in wake of damning SEND report gathers more than 500 names





A mum has spoken of the ‘heart-breaking’ stories she is hearing from other SEND families since she launched a petition calling for top Suffolk County Council leadership to go.

Nikki Graham, 38, is demanding the chief executive of Suffolk County Council (SCC) Nicola Beach and council leader Cllr Matthew Hicks leave their posts in the wake of the damning inspection report into services for children and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) in the county.

Bury St Edmunds parent Nikki, who has two children with additional needs, said she launched the change.org petition - which had now hit 500 signatures – as she doesn’t believe the resignation of three senior councillors at SCC goes far enough.

Nikki Graham and her family, husband Mark and children Sofia, eight, Dillon, seven, and Annie, three. Picture: Supplied by family
Nikki Graham and her family, husband Mark and children Sofia, eight, Dillon, seven, and Annie, three. Picture: Supplied by family

“I don’t need any more sorrys. I need to see action and it comes from the top,” she said. “I call it a culture of lack of care at Suffolk County Council. That needs to change from the top.”

The recent report by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission found ‘widespread and/or systematic failings’ leading to ‘significant concerns’ about the experiences and outcomes of children and young people with SEND in Suffolk.

Nikki, whose own experiences with Suffolk SEND services, have been ‘nothing short of appalling’, said since she launched the petition she had had people coming to her with their own ‘heart-breaking’ stories.

Nikki Graham, from Bury St Edmunds, has launched a petition calling for CEO of Suffolk County Council Nicola Beach and leader of the council Matthew Hicks to go. Picture: Supplied by family
Nikki Graham, from Bury St Edmunds, has launched a petition calling for CEO of Suffolk County Council Nicola Beach and leader of the council Matthew Hicks to go. Picture: Supplied by family

She said she had heard from people who were ‘completely lost’ and ‘don’t know really which way to go forward’, and who had been told ‘incorrect facts’, for example their child doesn’t qualify for an EHCP (education, health and care plan).

She has heard of young people who are out of school and out of employment and say they ‘don’t have any prospects’.

She added: “Children who have gone through trauma through being in incorrect placements, through not getting the support they need.

“I have heard it all. It’s heart-breaking. Some I have been able to help, others not so much. Lots of people in the same situation as me saying the placement they have been given for September is inappropriate.”

Nikki is currently fighting for her daughter Annie, who is nearly four, to have the right educational support for her needs.

Nikki Graham said she has had to fight for support for her two children with additional needs, adding it had been 'overwhelming'. Picture: Supplied by family
Nikki Graham said she has had to fight for support for her two children with additional needs, adding it had been 'overwhelming'. Picture: Supplied by family

A mainstream primary school is named on Annie’s EHCP, a legal document outlining the support she should receive, but Nikki says this would be unsuitable – and is challenging it.

Speaking of her experiences with Suffolk SEND services, Nikki said: “There’s a lot of fighting. It’s overwhelming. It’s caused health issues with both me and my husband. It affects both of our mental health, definitely.

“I reckon I have spent hundreds and hundreds of hours just trying to put all these issues right, for my family and wider.”

Nikki, who has some IPSEA (Independent Provider of Special Education Advice) qualifications, supports people who are ‘desperate’. “People come to me in bits not knowing what to do next,” she said.

She is also a member of the group Campaign for Change (Suffolk SEND), which has also said Cllr Hicks and Ms Beach should consider their positions.

Nikki said Cllr Hicks and Ms Beach had presided over the failings.

Nikki Graham, from Bury St Edmunds, said her personal experiences with special educational needs services in Suffolk had been nothing short of 'appalling'. Picture: Supplied by family
Nikki Graham, from Bury St Edmunds, said her personal experiences with special educational needs services in Suffolk had been nothing short of 'appalling'. Picture: Supplied by family

Andrew Reid, cabinet member for education and SEND at SCC, said: “Changes at leadership level have been made.

“I am new to post, with deputy cabinet member, Debbie Richards, also newly appointed. We are both committed to pushing forward with reform on a scale that is felt positively by all.

“From an officer perspective, two senior leaders responsible for children and young people’s services, including SEND have left the organisation and we have interim leadership in place.

“A new executive director of children and young people is in the process of being recruited. Reforming SEND will be paramount to that role.”