Serious question: is bullying a method that staff in education, health and/or social care use to ration their limited resources? After all it isn’t uncommon to hear “It was all fine until I requested a specialist school” or “As soon as we requested an EHC assessment it all changed.”
These seem to be magic triggers that turn helpful or even the ‘less than helpful’ professionals into highly focussed teams that spend hours: meeting, discussing and causing chaos, ensuring delays, preventing assessments, inventing issues, misusing policies and the law and then finally, when all else fails to make you go away, there is always “We need a second opinion on the diagnosis”.
We all know what’s coming next. The diagnosis is not considered to be safe (because it is highly inconvenient) and therefore the parent (usually the Mum) is ‘fabricating and inducing’ (FII). For many parents the first time in their lives they hear this phrase is when their child needs a provision that a ‘professional’ doesn’t want to provide. A close second to this is when the parent has made a complaint.
Someone needs to properly audit allegations and ‘concerns’ about FII. Seriously, the results would be very interesting.
Back to the issues of bullying. It is simply my observation, but it seems to be a key rationing tool used by Local Authorities (LA) right now.
Rationing: “Rationing is the controlled distribution of scarce resources, goods, or services, or an artificial restriction of demand.” (Thanks, Wikipedia.)
The problem is this. Every child must have an equal chance to “achieve their best” (SEND Code of Practice 2015). Your child needs a considerable amount of provision to enable them to have a chance to achieve their best, and the LA has spent all their money on …. other things.
To protect their budget they need to either:
- Make you go away and de-register your child from education, or
- Make someone else pay for large chunks of the education.
Specialist Education can be paid for by health, social care or education, so these three parties deftly dance about trying to manipulate facts, information and assessments so that the other parties have to pay. And of course delays in provision saves £1000s in school fees.
At the same time, the mainstream schools are being expected to support children without appropriate additional funding. They too may try to ‘bully you out’ so that their budget (that will remain the same regardless of the number of children with SEN they have) is protected.
There are many things that can can be done to protect school and LA budgets:
- Generalised misinformation and poor provision to wear the parents down until they give up and go away.
- Illegal exclusions, threats of the Welfare Officer or court fines and FII allegations because your child is too exhausted or anxious to attend school (or because you have made a complaint).
- ‘Lose’ referral letters so that all of a sudden there is no assessment, therefore no proof of need…..
- Refuse to ask schools to consider your child and send them the relevant paperwork….
- Take credible professionals off your case because they are likely to identify the need for expensive provision and replace them with those that relish the opportunity to silently bully the vulnerable.
- Undermine diagnoses simply because the professional is truly ‘independent’. Oh the irony…..
- Refuse to approve, say about 90%, of all requests for an EHC assessment, on the basis that most parents won’t use their right to appeal. I think about 97% of those that appeal the ‘refusal to assess’ ‘win’ the appeal. The real winner though, is the LA, as they have already saved the cost of months of provision.
- Cause a delay. For some placements a week’s delay can save nearly £5000. So, I guess, the first line of defence we see, is: a ‘key person’ being away, a letter or email not being sent/received, a meeting being cancelled, a policy that states “School must show 2 terms of further work before we consider a child for EHC assessment”, and our favourite… the issuing of an amended statement being delayed so that the parents can’t start the appeal proceedings.
- Along the same lines then, the LA will name an inappropriate school hoping that parents will give up – after all challenging this using the tribunal system is costly and scary right? And there is just no fight left in the parents. Those that do go to tribunal to challenge the named placement will have to wait for months, pay privately for the assessments that the LA should have done properly (saving the LA a packet) and then the LA can concede a few days before the tribunal hearing. Job done. The parents paid for the assessments and months of school fees have been saved. Hardly a win for the child or the parents is it?
- Request repeated Social Care assessments.
- Higher level threats, for example, ‘You must send your child to x unsuitable school or we will start proceedings to remove him, as you will not be complying with professionals advice’.
- Take advantage of the parent’s disabilities (especially if these centre on learning difficulties or communication disabilities) or chronic physical health problems or mental health issues (often triggered by this public sector abuse in the first place).
- Use ex-partners and domestic abuse situations to undermine the views of the resident parent.
- Allege Fabricating and Inducing Illness to prevent further assessment of a child’s needs and terrify the parents into de-registering their child from education.
So often it feels like a battle of wills. How much will it take to destroy the parents enough so that they stop asking for help?
If this describes the situation for you, please remember, it’s not just you. Pace yourself and plod on. It seems to be a bit of an epidemic right now……
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