TORY leaders have called for an independent probe into care and support for children with special educational needs following a catalogue of complaints from parents.

Southend Council’s Conservative group has asked for an urgent meeting to consider calls for the independent investigation after parents say the service is failing their children.

It was backed by Independent councillor Ron Woodley, deputy leader of Southend Council.

Ofsted recently reported improvements to the service had been made following a damning inspection in 2018 which highlighted “significant weaknesses” in the service.

Nevertheless, families fighting to get the education their children need, often against insurmountable odds, say youngsters are still being failed.

Educational health care plans and diagnoses of mental health problems can take years to achieve and some families find their own parenting skills called into question during the lengthy process.

Tony Cox, leader of the Conservative group, who has a daughter with special educational needs, said: “We called for this before but it was dismissed out of hand.

"There are a whole raft of issues including education health and care plans not being adhered to. Southend is rated one of the worst local authorities in terms of educational health care plans.

Harwich and Manningtree Standard: Councillor Tony CoxCouncillor Tony Cox

"There are some families telling me they are too frightened to ask for help because they might get their children taken away. The whole system needs ripping up and starting again.”

Julia Hopper, whose son Chris Nota, who died at the age of 19 after falling from the Queensway Bridge in Southend last July, has been campaigning for an investigation into SEND services.

She said: “We are delighted that they have taken this issue seriously since it has been the literal destruction of too many of our children and remains so.”

Ron Woodley, council deputy leader, said: “I think we should have an independent inquiry. I know we have had Ofsted come in and three out four areas are improving but it would be a wise move to an independent review to make sure we are on track to improve services.”