The complex needs panel. Woah. Buddy. Where do I even start? The local authority is it’s own special maze. After chasing when the panel was (which felt like a mission. Our educational psychologist, the person who is the family contact through this process left. We were allocated a new one, but weren’t told who they were. We weren’t even told the old one had left, and heard through the therapy grape vine. Ironically that’s also how we found out about our new person, who had mentioned someone else about an aspect of our case!)
Anyway, we had a date. Finally. I showed up early, and nervous.
I walked into the panel room with Mikaere. It was a meeting room, with a big square table. There were ten people sitting across the three sides, leaving one side for the two of us. Intimidating af.
They introduced themselves to one, one at a time. There was the panel chair, that days health rep and social rep. Three people from Lovely School (the head teacher, the early years teacher and the head of therapy), and then a mix of other people on the panel (a parent rep, our educational psychologist and a few more people whose names and titles and what they did flew over my head).
It was intimidating, but I’m lucky in that there was a friendly face I knew there, so that was positive. After a lot of talk about what the current package was, how it wasn’t appropriate for Mikaere was debated (and agreed) there was more discussion about what kind of package *would* be appropriate for us.
Here is what it comes down to:
- They’re giving us 15 hours (which is split across three hours, five days a week). Knowing that there is no way he’d be able to manage, we’re fine to use, say only 9 hours if we want to. The idea is that we should be able to build up to 15 hours.
- If he’s not there full time, we shouldn’t rely on the therapy through school, and it should stay with the community team until he is at 15 hours a week.
- That means that he needs extra funding to cover equipment.
- Also, they want someone to work with him 1-1. A nurse to cover seizure care + the blended diet.
That was all fine.
What was not fine is that because none of this was sorted before the school year, there is now no space at Lovely School that is suitable for Mikaere.
So we have to wait till NEXT September.
Lovely School has exactly eight spaces in their early years class. If you double that, for the afternoon/morning sessions, that’s sixteen. Total. Sixteen special needs toddlers is all they can accommodate.
Considering there is only one other special needs school in our borough, with a similar allocation, that means there is only 32 special needs toddlers between the ages of 3-5 who get to go to nursery a year in my borough.
I spoke the the Head Teacher, who was due to open a second early years class for this academic year, and it was scrapped due to funding and lack of teachers. Ahhhhhhhhh.
This. Our system is so underfunded in the world of the vulnerable and special needs. I don’t know what to do about it. I emailed the director of education standards and inclusion in my borough, who sent back a vague but noncommittal email. I emailed our MP, and our local newspaper, both of which went silent. What else do I do? Where do I take this? Do I go lobby and advocate and make a generally nuisance of myself until someone listens? Till they fund a second class so my son can go to nursery?
The thought makes me tired (and guilty. Like I should be doing everything and more).
It bothers me, because after taking on the fight for getting a package that is SAFE for Mikaere, there is no resource. If he was neurotypical, this wouldn’t be a problem. There are nursery’s left, right and centre offering 15 hour places. But that there are only 32 places in Wandsworth for special needs toddlers… what am I meant to do?
So. I guess we wait till next September, and work with our special needs playgroups until late 2020. I’m not 100% sure how I feel about that.