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Ipswich MP Tom Hunt says failings of special educational needs and disabilities provision in Suffolk is 'unacceptable' after damning report




A Suffolk MP has described the failings of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) provision in the county as 'unacceptable', following a damning independent report.

Tom Hunt, MP for Ipswich, said it 'pains' him to see the failings of the Suffolk system, 'as someone who is incredibly passionate about SEND provision nationwide'.

It comes after a report produced following an independent review, undertaken by Lincolnshire County Council, highlighted a host of improvements needed when it was published earlier this week.

Tom Hunt, MP for Ipswich. Picture: House of Commons
Tom Hunt, MP for Ipswich. Picture: House of Commons

Mr Hunt said: "Given my personal background in learning disabilities, having been diagnosed while at school, provision for SEN students has consistently been my priority.

"Improving the resources available to students requiring additional support in education, and refining the system providing these, is paramount - and the primary reason I became involved in politics.

"It is incredibly distressing to see the frustration caused to parents and to young people by the shortcomings of the SEND provision locally.

Suffolk County Council's offices at Endeavour House, Ipswich
Suffolk County Council's offices at Endeavour House, Ipswich

"The failings of Suffolk SEND are unacceptable, and it is particularly sad to see these shortcomings apparent in my own area."

The failings, though, did 'not come as a surprise' to the Ipswich MP, given the number of constituents who had contacted him on the issue, including parents who struggled to find appropriate placements and found the system 'incredibly frustrating'.

Mr Hunt said there had been instances where he was able to ensure appropriate placements were found as a result of speaking with concerned parents.

"I will continue to listen to and advocate for parents seeking clarity, answers, and better communication as well as their children who desperately need an improved service to deliver the support they deserve," he added.

"While I will continue to do what I can for individual cases, it is vital that we see systemic change."

While Mr Hunt said he would be speaking with officials at the county council to 'ensure they are held to account', he was 'encouraged' to see them work with consultancy firm Impower.

Meanwhile, Mr Hunt has raised and will keep raising funding of Suffolk's SEND provision with government, as he said it was 'not fairly funded compared with other areas'.

"Increased funding would allow better provision for individuals with additional needs in mainstream school settings, alleviating some of the demand burden on specialist placements," he added.

"It is essential to encourage further investment into Suffolk SEND provision in order to ensure every child has access to appropriate placements, which is not currently the case.

"While I am proud of recent progress made with schools such as the Sir Bobby Robson school, for students with additional behavioural and mental needs, there remains much to be done to address the insufficient provision for Suffolk students with SEN, particularly those with Education, Health and Care plans.

"Though this review is limited to specific aspects of SEND provision, it is promising to see senior county council members welcoming constructive feedback, and acknowledging current failures with openness and an honesty towards the challenges ahead."

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