But not sure it is much better…
It is no longer April’s Fools Day. Though at times it may seem like it. Back home in America, two days ago was the deadline for filing your tax return. Paying your bill to Uncle Sam. Rendering unto Cesar that which is Cesar’s. So it seemed appropriate to take a break from #autismacceptance to look at home education. To update everyone on the outcome of our battles to get PanKwake the services to which she is entitled through the Islington Disabled Children’s Team while home educating her.
We won…we got everything we asked for(to just be left alone, not pressured to put her into school, no more EHCP, no home visits)…and we lost, because we wasted nine months of our lives, untold stress and placed our fragile trust once more in a system that is broken…to get absolutely more help whatsoever. Don’t get me wrong, maybe, perhaps even likely, we could have won money if we had gotten a solicitor and spent years in litigation. But at what cost to our sanity? What cost to my health? And most importantly how much of our freedoms and rights as parents and home educators would we have traded for a few thousand pounds?
When we left off with April’s Fools (https://pankwake.wordpress.com/2015/04/01/aprils-fools/), we had just discovered that the ‘independent’ panel that we had been told would determine our case was in fact the new Education, Health and Care panel to which we had independently but under pressure from the social worker applied for an assessment with. Of course, we had already refused what I make no bones about calling their ‘bribe’…£35 per week for twelve weeks contingent upon us finalizing the EHCP. I had in fact told them to “shove it where the sun don’t shine.” And yes, this girl said just that. Anyone who knows me know I would to.
To be fair, in the beginning, we had always planned to apply for an EHCP…AFTER we had completed the Care portion. We just don’t like being lied to, bullied and bribed to do anything…even something we had once wanted to do. Because in the end you think…can we ever really trust these people? Are they being nice now and then doing, saying, writing stuff behind our backs?
Anyone with a special needs child knows one simple truth…everything is a battle. And World War II showed that fighting a war on two fronts is not wise. So since things began we have always picked our battles…knocked things off one at a time. Gotten to the point that we are satisfied with her diagnosis (epilepsy, autism…a five year battle) then tackled respite care (nine months down the drain) with the plan to knock out education next. Families with the huge responsibility for caring for special children have limited time, finances and emotional resources…we cannot take on the whole (damned) world at once. And that was my intent doing it this way. I told that to our Team Around the Child committee. I told it to our first social worker, our second and their supervisor. And they all agreed to those terms.
And then withheld information relevant to us…that the changes in SEN law, which happened in September 2014 meant the panel was no longer independent…and that the whole thing was now skewed. IF the first social worker, whom I did trust, had sat down and explained how this new system would work…maybe…MAYBE…we could have moved forward with both simultaneously. MAYBE!!!
BUT with a new social worker, who wrote things like ‘I need to be in education,’ as a goal in the support plan that would go to this committee for approval…how could we possibly trust that we would receive a fair hearing? Why accept their ‘bribe’ only to be told in the end…accept the school we choose or we won’t give you the support? Maybe they could not do that? But the thing people are not understanding here…this new law is a blank slate. All those tribunal rulings that upheld the fact that home educated families had the same rights to respite care as those whose children are in school…no longer directly apply. Tabula rasa…
The thing that worries me the most is this reply which we received to our complaint…
Since the introduction of the Care Act 2014 and Children and Families Act 2014 Education, Health and Social Care Services are now required to work in collaboration to pool budgets and devise EHC plans together to meet the needs of Children and Young People who have SENs or a disability. This became mandatory and legislative for all local authority councils in September 2014. The EHC panel was introduced on 20/01/2015, prior to this there was a Disabled Children’s Resources panel which was chaired by Operational Manager. The panel is independent in term of being situated outside of the Disabled Children’s Service.
Notice wording…mandatory…collaboration. What alarms me is that when I consulted with a home education consultant/advocate whom I trust implicitly, I was told that while they could not withhold the support, my complaint about the way they shared information behind my back and withheld information were ‘shaky’ under the new system.
What? Does that NOT concern other home educators? Next to Texas where on a couple of occasions the local sheriff showed up to escort the social worker off someone’s property because homeschooling was not grounds for abuse, the rules in England under the 2007 Department of Education guidelines on elective home education were fairly friendly. BUT if as in our case, these ‘independent’ panels can in the name of care demand information which parents are not compelled to give them under the guise of education then pardon my Texan…but they gots us by the short and curlies, folks.
What alarms me more is our case and several others that I have seen lately on home education social media sites. Take that in conjunction with the new Association of Elective Home Education Professionals, who has among its members a radical anti-home educator and professor Daniel Monk, and with the general trend across all of the EU (Germany, Sweden and France among others) to restrict or outlaw home education, and I feel like the gal in the theater crying “FIRE!”
To be blunt…as I always am…it might be inconvenient, it might not please PanKwake’s daddy much, and we might be financially worse off (or not)…BUT if worse comes to worse…no one can stop two American citizens from going home. Well, not unless they want to end up on every news channel back home and cause an international incident. Other people in this country ain’t gots that option. So we need to wake up folks…don’t keep ignoring it until it hits your door too. Unite.
Cause as my series last week Autism and Education: A Reality Check illustrated…the schools are letting our kids and us down. If we then loose or have our rights to help them the best way we know how restricted by the very people who failed them to begin with, what then? I go back to Texas (or someplace just as homeschool friendly back home)…what do you do? Maybe you will get lucky, the homeschoolers back home are fighting to bring a law through the US Congress right now that would guarantee asylum for home educating fleeing persecution/prosecution (I know dems two different words but both apply) for exercising their parental rights.
But I am standing up and fighting for our rights to educate otherwise in this country…especially…our autistic and special needs children who have already been let down by these people. Will you join your voice with mine?