Camden health report: Services for children with disabilities are ‘hit and miss’

John Murray, who has cerebral palsy, welcomed a report by Healthwatch Camden saying Camden's service

John Murray, who has cerebral palsy, welcomed a report by Healthwatch Camden saying Camden's services for children with special needs are hit and miss. Picture: Nigel Sutton - Credit: Nigel Sutton

A disabled school boy has welcomed the findings of an official report which concludes that Camden could do more to help children with special educational needs.

John Murray, a year 10 pupil at William Ellis School in Highgate, was born with quadriplegic cerebral palsy and has impaired mobility and low vision, and feels he is only now getting the help he needs.

A report last month from Healthwatch Camden exposed “hit and miss” services for children with special educational needs (SEN) and disabilities.

“They are hit and miss, because I have had experience of both,” said John, who is preparing to take 11 GSCEs next year and was last year awarded the Jack Petchey Award for Outstanding Student of the Year.

“It went from very good to diabolical. At William Ellis School they were more experienced at working with people who had learning difficulties rather than people who had physical issues.

“At the beginning it was not consistent and not organised. It has taken a very long time for it to straighten out.”

A pupil at Gospel Oak School prior to entering the mainstream all-boys secondary school, he requires help to carry his books, access large print sheets, and support with writing.

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“Everyone writes quite fast and there is a lot to write,” said John. “They’ve got someone who’s my main person to go to.

“He’s dedicated to make sure I’m where I’m meant to be with the right material for the lesson.”

Living with his parents and two brothers in a second floor flat in Chalk Farm, his mother Michelle Murray said: “As parents we’ve found the school very responsive and Camden, in our experience, fully engaged. However, the SEN Policy is not integrated enough for John. Housing is a concern for him as his feet are both deformed, he’s in a lot of pain, and an operation will leave him housebound.”

Frances Hasler, director of Healthwatch Camden, who issued the report Specialist Children’s Services in Camden: Experiences of Local Families, said: “The specialist children’s services offered by Camden are generally very good and are appreciated by the families that use them.

“However, parents told us that there is still a gap – or sometimes a blockage – which can stop children getting access to the support to which they are entitled.”

Cllr Angela Mason, Camden’s cabinet member for children, said: “We have set up a specialist team that helps us meet the needs of children and young people with the most complex needs, creating a link between social workers, psychologists, and other professionals who work closely with families to help make the best decisions for that individual.

“Of course, there are always areas to improve, and we always welcome feedback and work hard to address any issues.”