1983 to today
IPSEA was established as a voluntary organisation in 1983 and registered as a charity (number 327691) in 1989. Originally, IPSEA was a small organisation made up of a group of special educational needs (SEN) professionals who would carry out free assessments of children’s SEN.
Over time we have evolved. We are now the leading organisation providing independent legally based advice and support for the families of children with SEN and/or a disability. There is no other organisation offering the range of free, independent and legally based support that IPSEA provides.
All our advice and support is delivered by our dedicated volunteers, supported by a team of part-time staff. IPSEA is a user-led organisation. Many of our volunteers, staff, members and trustees are parents/carers of children with special educational needs/disabilities.
Our services seek to ensure that individual children and young people with SEN fulfil their potential. By working with Local Authorities and Government policy-makers we seek improvements to ensure that all children and young people with SEN will fulfil their educational potential.
We have increased our capacity during the last few years:
In 2008 IPSEA launched a new website. That new site made it easier for parents and carers to find information and download our resources.
In 2009 IPSEA launched a Tribunal Helpline to provide next-step advice in preparing cases for Tribunal. The volunteers who cover this helpline also assess whether callers need the support of an individual IPSEA volunteer caseworker. We need to make this assessment as demand for individual case work support is always greater than the number of casework volunteers we have available. The assessment is based on each individual family’s needs and case complexity.
In 2010 IPSEA developed a new child-centred database using free open-source software. This allows us to see a child’s progress through the SEN system, enabling us to provide informed and integrated advice for families. The information we collect provides clear evidence of the issues that are faced by children with SEN. When we are helping to develop SEN Law or providing input into central Government policy development, this evidence is invaluable.
In 2011 IPSEA launched its Facebook Page and twitter account. During the first three months after these were launched, we saw a significant increase in visitors to our website (20,000 visitors in just 3 months compared to 60,000 per year).
In 2012 we launched our email-based Information Service. This new service provides a way for parents to quickly receive specific information on the law that applies in the situation they are facing. Parents use it to clarify with schools and Local Authorities the duties that they have towards their children.
In 2013 we launched bookable calls for both our Advice Line and our Tribunal Helpline. Using web-based software, parents and carers can book to speak to one of our volunteer advisers at a time that suits them (subject to availability). During 2013 over 900 call-backs were booked and made.