These are the final words of a powerful presentation given by the SENsitive Group to candidates standing for Greater Manchester Mayor, demanding better support for children with special educational needs (SEN). This was part of a broader Assembly organised by Greater Manchester Citizen’s, a coalition of faith and community organisations across Greater Manchester. Almost 550 people Zoomed in on the night, over 100 from Caritas Shrewsbury.
Carla, a mother of 6 and member of the SENsitive Group that Caritas support, spoke about her 4-year battle to have her youngest son, who is nonverbal, diagnosed. The process made her question her own instincts as a mother and she asked “can you imagine looking into the eyes of your child and not knowing whether he crying because he is hungry or hurting?” Even though her son has now been diagnosed with autism, she is still trying to secure the support he desperately needs.
Shannon another member of the group, who has 2 autistic children, spoke about the impact the pandemic has had. The family lived in a first floor flat with no garden but had to self-isolate and Shannon questioned why families with SEN children are not prioritised within housing allocation.
The candidates heard the story of Leah, a 22-year old woman living in homeless accommodation, whose story shows what happens when the needs of the child are not addressed. Leah is still waiting for her diagnosis but has spent her whole life hiding away, due to severe social anxiety, where even going to the shops is virtually impossible. While many people flagged up concerns about Leah during her painful school days, no one acted. This is why Leah feels looking back on her life, “that nobody cares because nobody listens.”
Sharon, a member of the new Caritas Young Voices group, brought the candidates attention to a parliamentary report, which highlighted that 4 in 5 children, over 1 million nationwide, will not secure the support their needs merit. This will impact future wellbeing, education and life chances.
The SENsitive Group invited election candidates to work with them to:
- Make EHCP assessments & support simpler, faster and more accessible
- Bring the main SEN agencies together to hear families experiences and work on solutions to improve services
- To provide resources to support the voluntary sector so they can form a network of support across Manchester
- To employ SEN case workers to help families navigate the system
Candidates, all visibly moved by the stories, responded positively. The key task for the SENsitive group is to hold the winning candidate accountably after the election for promises made on the night. If you would like more information, or are interested in supporting this work, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org