Huge rise in number of parents and carers contacting Parent Talk for support with special educational needs and disabilities
- 140% rise in number of parents and carers of children with special educational needs and disabilities contacting Action for Children over last 12 months
- Charity’s first annual report on its Parent Talk advice service reveals 26% of conversations were on SEND issues
- Nearly 470,000 parents and carers accessed online advice and support from Parent Talk in the last year.
The number of parents and carers of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) contacting a charity’s online advice service for support has risen by 140 per cent in just 12 months.
Action for Children says SEND issues were identified in more than a quarter of all conversations on its Parent Talk platform. Parents accessed articles on the subject more than 130,000 times over the same period.
Parent Talk is a first-of-its-kind free online service which provides accessible and trustworthy advice, support, and reassurance for parents and carers of children aged 0-19. Parents and carers can access one-to-one advice from parenting coaches – trained family support workers – as well as support and advice articles across a range of common parenting challenges.
The charity says the government now needs to take urgent action to improve the support children with SEND get. That should include ensuring that parents are able to get their children the support they are entitled to.
“The results from analysis of our Parent Talk conversations shows clearly that mums, dads and carers have huge concerns about the help and support given to their children with special educational needs and disabilities,” said Joe Lane, Action for Children’s head of policy.
“The big message from these parents is they are hugely underserved when it comes to the various challenges they face. They all want to do everything they possibly can for their children, and they want to be the best parents they can, but the system is letting them down,” added Mr Lane.
“The government’s proposals in their Green Paper to create national standards for SEND services is a positive step. However, local authorities and schools must receive adequate funding to deliver these specialist services.”
This parent, who wished to remain anonymous, explained: “As a single mum with a young child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), I felt very isolated and my health visitor referred me to Action for Children who provided me with a series of supportive sessions that really helped,”
“When that ended, the support worker flagged up Parent Talk Cymru as an extra support tool and it’s excellent. There is so much useful information on there but sometimes with the complex issues ASD can present you need to speak to a human being. It’s brilliant that option is there through the online chat service,” she added.
“The only consistent support I’ve had has been from Action for Children, and Parent Talk really is like a crutch. I’ve recommended it to friends in a similar boat to me and they’ve also found it very useful.”
Action for Children says child mental health in general was the top issue for those seeking help via Parent Talk’s one-to-one coaching service. It was the subject of more than 50% of all conversations on the website last year.
The charity points out that wider estimates suggest that an extra half a million children in England alone have developed probable mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression, in the last five years. Parents frequently describe long waits for accessing child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS), including a period of no support, despite the urgent need.
Action for Children says there has also been a steady increase in parents seeking help for children refusing to attend school.
“School refusal often occurs when a child is feeling anxious about some aspect of school life. Last year, Parent Talk coaches supported 351 parents with issues relating to this. It corroborates national figures which show that the rate of unexplained and unauthorised absences in schools has risen by 50% since 2016,” continued Mr Lane.
The charity says the experience of running the Parent Talk site has shown there are now many things the government could improve to better help children and families before they reach crisis point. It’s made a series of recommendations that it believes will help parents most in need.
These include creating a national digital parenting support service, like Parent Talk.
“Online parent support is a cost-effective way of helping them to respond to challenges before they, or their children, need more intensive assistance. The government has announced that 82 new family hubs should provide face-to-face and online support to parents, but a national digital parenting support service would complement local digital services,” said Mr Lane.
He said Action for Children believes the government must improve access to specialist mental health services for children and young people. They must also ensure that every family has a way to get key early years services in their local area.
“The government has made strides towards increasing the availability of early intervention mental health support in schools. However, as those reforms are rolled out, it is crucial that they thoroughly evaluate the approaches and interventions that are effective in reducing the number of children and young people with more severe mental health needs,” explained Mr Lane.
Parent Talk’s Jo Thurston added: “The combined impacts of a cost-of-living crisis, and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic mean that families across the United Kingdom are facing enormous pressures. Alongside this, public services to support children and families are struggling to keep pace with demand, meaning that many are not able to access the support they need.
“When parents and children are unable to access support, problems get worse, and can lead to severe consequences such as lasting ill health, poor educational outcomes, and family breakdown.”
For further information contact: parent-talk.org.uk
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
- Parent Talk is a first-of-its-kind free online service which provides accessible and trustworthy advice, support, and reassurance for parents and carers of children aged 0-19. Parents and carers can access 1-to-1 advice from parenting coaches – trained family support workers – as well as support and advice articles across a range of common parenting challenges.
- Between April 2021 and March 2022, 8,982 parents and carers accessed specialist 1-to-1 support through the Parent Talk platform. Including advice articles, nearly 470,000 parents and carers accessed online support from Parent Talk in the last year.