Page last updated at 15:28 GMT, Friday, 16 May 2008 16:28 UK

Special needs complaints promise

Special needs class
Nearly one in five children has a special educational need

Ministers have pledged to investigate claims councils are failing children with special educational needs (SEN).

Children's minister Kevin Brennan told the Commons the government had powers to intervene and force councils to act if they were not meeting their duties.

It came as MPs debated a backbench Bill requiring data on what help SEN children are getting to be recorded by the Secretary of State.

It is hoped that outcomes for SEN children will be improved as a result.

The Bill, being steered through Parliament by Gateshead MP Sharon Hodgson, would also place a requirement on the Secretary of State to publish information on how well SEN children are doing at school and on other key themes such as emotional well-being.

'Tougher regulations'

It also aims to ensure that future information is collected and published so that campaigners keep an eye on the current "patchwork quilt" of provision.

Mrs Hodgson, who has a dyslexic son, was prompted to present the Bill after she tabled a series of Parliamentary questions asking for information on the specialist support given to children with dyslexia.

Ministers responded that such information was not collected centrally.

Liberal Democrat spokeswoman Annette Brooke complained that local authorities were "manifestly" failing to provide the information required of them under present law.

Surveys suggested only 5% of councils in England and Wales were complying with their legal duties, she said.

"We need tougher regulations to make clear that information must be provided to parents," she said.

Mr Brennan said local authorities were already required to publish information about their arrangements and provision for SEN children.

"There is an onus on local authorities to provide information to parents about the SEN provision that is available," he said.

And he told MPs who had evidence of non-compliance to bring it to ministers' attention.

The Bill gained an unopposed third reading and now goes to the Lords.

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