They don’t know what they’re missing: Parent-run support groups and access to SEND services in London

Authors: Rosalie Warnock*, Queen Mary University of London
Topics: Social Geography
Keywords: voluntary sector, inequalities, autism, parents, knowledge exchange
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 25
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Local authority special educational needs and disability (SEND) services in England are complex bureaucratic systems which are challenging to navigate at the best of times. Following a decade of (ongoing) austerity cuts to services and staff, the support that remains has become even harder to access. While each local authority has a statutory obligation to provide a SEND advisory service for parents and young people with SEND, these are often chronically under-funded and under-staffed relative to local need. In the face of this, voluntary parent-run support groups have become conduits not only for local campaigning, but for the sharing of information, expertise and skills. More experienced SEND parents remember what was available before the cuts, and see their role as helping other parents to access what they might not know they are missing; less experienced SEND parents attend the groups to access help they might have been struggling to find elsewhere. Drawing on fieldwork with SEND practitioners and parents of children with autism in London, UK (conducted 2018 - 2019), this paper demonstrates how - when successfully navigating and accessing state welfare has become an individual responsibility - parent-run support groups play a vital role in trying to level up access to SEND resources amongst parents (and children) who are unequally placed to access them.

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