24% disabled children not in school full-time and education and health support crucial to learning not back to pre-pandemic levels.

Almost a quarter of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are not in school full-time, many due to Covid. And education, health and social care support crucial to learning is not back to pre-pandemic levels.

Disabled Children’s Partnership (DCP), a coalition of 80 disability charities, today launches new research that shows cracks in the system before Covid have become significantly worse, leaving many children shut out. They are calling for urgent action to stop the impact on their long term development and mental health which could have repercussions for years to come.

Key findings from DCP’s Back To School Poll, completed by 3,400 parents of disabled children, include:

  • 24% of disabled children are not back in school at all or are attending part-time
  • Almost half of children with an Education, Health and Care Plan (47%) are getting none or just parts of the support specified in the plan. And 72% say that is partly or entirely down to Covid.
  • 57% of children who received social care, such as short breaks, before lockdown, have not had this reinstated or only partially reinstated
  • 70% of children who received therapies such as physio, speech and language, psychotherapy and occupational therapy, have not had this reinstated or only partially reinstated.

Amanda Batten, Chair of DCP, said: “Our survey shows that the Covid pandemic has worsened cracks that were already in the system. Back to school has gone well for many disabled children. Their families are grateful for the efforts of schools and teachers.

“But there are groups of children who have been let down. Many children with tracheostomies had been unable to return to school, as the guidance was delayed until very recently which left them in limbo. Some children with conditions that increase anxiety have also had particular challenges due to the enormity of the Covid pandemic and disruption to lives. There are enormous challenges for local authorities dealing with this pandemic, but Covid should not be used as an excuse to stop children going to school and learning, it is their fundamental right.”

DCP is calling on the government do more to hold local areas accountable for getting all children back to school. And to learn the lessons and act on them when they do their review of special education needs policy next year.

DCP partners are hearing from families they support that they are struggling emotionally and mentally after months without much support or respite, now facing a second wave of Coronavirus. Families doing their best understandably feel overwhelmed and are at the end of their tether.

It’s essential that children’s services are invested in and get back to pre pandemic levels quickly. Health professionals, such as physiotherapists, community paediatricians and psychologists that many families rely on, must not be redeployed as happened in the first wave. This has had an impact on disabled children’s mental and physical health and their ability to learn and reach their full potential.

Note: banner image taken pre COVID-19. 


Cherry Trees is one of 80 organisations that forms The Disabled Children’s Partnership a coalition of organisations campaigning for better health and social care support for disabled children and their families.