SEND Advocacy, as the name suggests, is advocacy centred around Special Educational Needs (SEN) and Disabilities (D) law, policy and practice. It is used to refer to children and young people who learn differently and who require additional support in order to access and/or progress in education.
There are four main areas of SEN: Cognition & Learning, Communication and Interaction, Social, Emotional and Mental Health and Sensory/Physical. These are likely to be familiar to you if your child has an EHC Plan (Education and Health Care Plan) as they are covered in sections B (Needs) and F (Provision).
Examples of what is included under the umbrella of SEN are neurodivergencies such as Autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD); Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD) such as Dyslexia, Dyscalculia and Dyspraxia; physical and learning disabilities like Downs Syndrome, and mental health difficulties such as depression. It is a deliberately wide and encompassing definition and does not require a child or young person to have a diagnosis of any kind.
Advocacy is a specific type of communication, designed to put across a particular point of view or perspective with the aim of influencing the listener to behave a certain way in response. In the context of SEND it’s largely about standing up for the educational rights of children and young people. Put like that, it’s probably clear that advocacy is something that many of us do every day; often without realising or even thinking about it. Challenging an education or health professional about the support they are offering (or more frequently not offering) to your child is a form of advocacy.
Many parents and carers understandably find it a step too far to navigate the complexities of obtaining and enforcing their child's legal rights on their own. This is where a SEND advocate can be invaluable. The role of a SEND advocate is to support and empower parents and carers (and young people) to obtain the right education for their child or young person or indeed themselves, and the education that is their child or young person’s right.
All advocates work in their own way, but a good advocate is one that will:
Listen – an advocate should listen and really hear what you are saying so that they fully understand your particular situation and what you want to achieve.
Explain – an advocate should be knowledgable about the relevant law, policy and practice and be able to clearly articulate how it relates to your specific situation and explore with you the various options open to you.
Advise – an advocate should guide you as to your best course of action, bearing in mind what you want to achieve, the resources you have and the relevant law and policy. Sometimes this means being the bearer of bad, or at least less than brilliant, news. Ultimately, however, the decision is yours and an advocate should never force their views on you.
Present – an advocate should present your case in the most persuasive way possible, whether in written or spoken form, to the relevant decision makers. These can include local authority caseworkers, education and health professionals and of course Tribunal judges and members. Throughout this the advocate must clearly and accurately puts across your own thoughts, views and wishes; not theirs.
If you feel that your child or young person has SEND but that they are not getting the support they require then we can help. We offer a complete service from preparing a request for an EHCNA to appearing at a contested tribunal hearing, and everything in between. If you need someone in you corner to help you secure the education your child deserves, contact us today.