With the General Election looming, the resounding question of SEND families across the nation is; what about SEND?

The General Election is on the 4th of July, and whilst the media and society is actively discussing which party has our best interests at heart, we’re yet to see any really in-depth and exhaustive information on which UK political party has SEND high on their agenda – but did any of them really ever? We’d like to think that with the increased exposure the topic of SEND has had in the press and on social media within the last couple of years – the scandal with the Warwickshire councillors, for example – that political parties would be wanting to harness the topic of SEND as a strong voting incentive. Are we being a tad ambitious there? Perhaps.

We used Mentimeter to ask our SEND community how they’re feeling about the upcoming election in simple terms in order to collate this image: if you’d like to add yours, please submit here. It’s clear to see that the overwhelming consensus amongst SEND families is that they feel ignored, invisible, and forgotten – the larger the word, the more often it has been submitted.

What are UK political parties saying about SEND in their 2024 General Election manifestos?

We downloaded the manifestos of the top 5 UK political parties to check out what they’re proposing on the agendas with regard to SEND – if anything at all, no matter how vague. We chose these 5 parties as the most discussed in the public sphere. Here’s what we found…

Labour Manifesto:

“Sadly, too often we see families falling through the cracks of public services. Labour will improve data sharing across services, with a single unique identifier, to better support children and families.”

Conservative Manifesto:

“We hugely value the work that unpaid carers do supporting their loved ones. We have increased Carer’s Allowance by almost £1,500 since 2010 and given employees who are also unpaid carers entitlement to a period of unpaid leave. We will continue to stand behind our carers.

Our ambition is to make this country the most accessible place in the world for people with disabilities to live, work and thrive. We are delivering on our Disability Action Plan with disabilities. We passed the British Sign Language Act to ensure all public services and information are accessible to Deaf people who use BSL. The Down Syndrome Act will improve access to services and the quality of life of people with Down’s syndrome. In the next Parliament we will improve support for people who have guide or assistance dogs and explore bidding to host and deliver the 2031 Special Olympics World Summer Games.”

Liberal Democrats Manifesto

“Tackle the crisis in special educational needs provision, and help to end the postcode lottery in provision, by:

Reform Manifesto:

Nothing at all.

Green Party Manifesto:

“Most of us want to live in a country where everyone is treated with dignity, not one where record numbers of children are in poverty, older people can’t keep warm and disabled people are badly let down. We can do so much better, lifting everyone up and making sure all of us can access extra help when we need it.

To tackle the cost-of-living crisis for the poorest in our society and make the social security system fairer and less punitive, elected Greens will campaign to:

Disabled people have as much right to lead full, meaningful lives as everyone else. Green MPs will push to:

There is no specific reference to SEND but the Green Party then then go on to propose…

So, as you can see, very little space, if any, has been dedicated specifically to SEND in these political party manifestos.

Why is SEND so under-represented yet again?

SEND has always been around – just not always seen. We’re sure that we don’t need to get into a long diatribe about children chained to radiators to press this point but, if you’re new to this sphere or are perhaps sceptical, there’s plenty of literature on the erasure and imprisonment of disabled children in the UK in past generations, until it simply became too expensive for the government to fund – hence why the visibility of disabled children in our society has increased. Yet, the amount of provision for them relative to this improved awareness remains problematic.

Now, thanks to how the world has become more ‘connected’ and the evolution of communications, SEND is far better recognised and specifically diagnosed, and parents are increasingly empowered to hold services, Local Authorities and the ‘powers that be’ to account when it comes to the needs of their children met in line with the legislation and laws that explicitly stand to ensure this, yet are not adhered to.

This should not be a fight. With SEND such a discussed topic in 2024, we’re extremely disappointed to see so little priority or urgency given to SEND in these party manifestos. The Green Party and Liberal Democrats certainly deserve credit for acknowledging SEND, but even then, their proposals remain vague and we have more questions now than before.

Whilst we certainly appreciate that budgets are limited and that funding is not finite, time and time again it is being reported in the press that public funds are being wasted on vanity projects by councils, misspent by corrupt politicians (think of the PPE scandal during the Covid-19 pandemic), and hoarded (a LocalAuthority for instance was recently called out for not spending millions given to them for SEND recently yet claiming hardship). With the right approach, funding could be better managed and prioritised in order to ensure that every single person – adult and child – has their needs met in an equitable, fair society. We can dream, right…?

What can we mere mortals do about it? As a collective, we can make an impact by;

The Fears of SEND Families in Our Community:

With the General Election looming, it’s natural that those of us with a disadvantage hold real stakes in a positive outcome – for most of us reading this, this ideal outcome being a political party who actually has plans to prioritise SEND. As you’ve already read above, the current party manifestos either ignore SEND entirely, or vaguely offer it lip service. This is disheartening – however, there could be some potential in the parties who’ve acknowledged SEND and disabilities, so we remain cautiously optimistic, despite our reservations. Will this election be the one where we finally start to see great strides in improving SEND funding and provision? Can we live in hope?

We’ve been speaking to the families within the Sunshine Support community to get a feel for their fears and thoughts surrounding the 2024 General Election, and it was really interesting to read the responses.

Anon: “As a SEND parent, my greatest worry post-election is that the new government will continue to fail our children and young people. That underfunding of SEND will continue. That all things EHCP will continue to be an uphill and exhausting battle. That CAMHS waiting lists will continue to grow. That the drive behind punitive and misguided attendance measures will continue. That the lack of accountability in LAs and academies will continue. That they will make it harder for parents to choose elective home education. That the disjointed and disbelieving education, health, social and welfare systems will continue to push SEND families to breaking point. That all hope will be lost for another five years!”

Anon: “I find it incredible that, even with the huge increase in awareness and acknowledgement of SEND over the last few generations, the political side of things seems to be so far behind. It’s like our kids – and ourselves, as so many SEND parents are neurodivergent themselves – don’t exist or matter. Or, when we are mentioned, we’re an afterthought. An add-on. A brief mention. There’s a CRISIS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW. This is no secret. Where are the people who are in power to represent us and protect us?! Because they’re certainly not in power right now, and those waiting to take their place don’t seem to be them either.”

Anon: “They all promise the world but ultimately want to line their own pockets. Time for the lesser of two evils to take charge.”

Why the School System Doesn’t Work

Here, Chrissa discusses why the school system doesn’t work – the ‘Green Papers’, wasted funding on research, a failure to listen to consultancy and of course the general public, and so much more. This is an insightful, highly informative video that will leave you feeling ‘fired up’ and inspired to make a stand for the changes we NEED!

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