A SUPPORT organisation for parents of children with special educational needs is warning there could be a mental health crisis when schools reopen – after it was inundated with requests for help during lockdown.
Sunshine Support, which offers independent help and advice to parents across England and Wales, expanded its team from two people to 10 during 2020, to deal with the number of requests for help it was receiving.
Now it fears the return to school could have a devastating impact on the countless children who may be in need of additional support and predicts that a mental health crisis could be on the horizon.
And the organisation is calling on the Government for more investment in mental health support for children and young people.
Sunshine Support founder, Chrissa Wadlow, said:
“During lockdown, enquiries to Sunshine Support grew by 700%, which shows just how high the need is for support and this number is only going to grow when schools reopen.
“I know from personal experience just how hard it is to get the right support in place for children with special needs – it can take years of battling with local authorities and this is a problem all over the country.
“My greatest fear now is that almost every child is going to have some form of special educational need when they return to school, because lockdown will have affected them all in different ways.
“If these early signs are ignored then we could be looking at a long-term crisis and the support system was overloaded before Covid came along.
“Many parents have to wait years for their child to be seen by the right professional, such as an educational psychologist, and schools only have small budgets to fund those children most in need.”
Sunshine Support, based in Derby, was launched in 2017 and is an independent not-for-profit organisation which has supported thousands of families across the country.
It does not receive money from public funding streams, to ensure it remains impartial, and puts any profits back into the communities that it supports, offering direct help to children, assessing their needs and helping parents successfully apply for an Education Health Care Plan where required.
Chrissa added: “During 2020 we helped 2,000 families and carried out 11,000 hours of voluntary work support. Our webinars were watched by between 100 and 300 people at a time – and we were doing two a week.
“These were parents who were desperate for help and couldn’t get any support through the system, either due to lockdown or just huge waiting lists and closed doors.
“The transition back to school is going to be really difficult for some children and their level of need will not have been assessed during lockdown. Most schools do as much as they can with limited funding, but there are going to be even more children who will be at risk of long-term mental health issues if they don’t receive the support they need.”