Hundreds of parents, children and campaigners joined a nationwide protest against a lack of support for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
The green alongside the Sea Lane Café in Marine Crescent was packed with families on Thursday (May 30) under the SEND National Crisis banner.
It was one of dozens of coordinated demonstrations against the underfunding of SEND services and coincided with the delivery of a 12,000-signature petition to Downing Street at midday.
Worthing’s Victoria Slaughter attended the Goring rally on behalf of her daughter, who has special educational needs, and called for solidarity.
“I just think we have to unite as parents,” said the mother-of-four.
“All SEND children are unique but unless we, as parents, come together with the same message we won’t be able to support it.
“Having a SEND child can be isolating – I had to give up my career to care for my child, but we shouldn’t have to. We need to stick together.”
SEND children are legally obliged to be given an educational, health and care plan (EHCP), which outlines the support they will require from birth until the age of 25.
Campaigners have argued Government cuts to education funding, starting in 2010, have failed to keep pace with demand.
Many parents at the rally said they had been waiting years for their child’s EHCP to be created, leaving them without support.
Some have been forced to home school their children, leaving their jobs and taking on the roles of carer, teacher and pseudo-lawyer as they trawl through legislation to understand what their children are entitled to.
Rosemary Hudson, from Worthing, was one of the organisers of Thursday’s demonstration and said the problem lay in the funding, not the schools, which she described as ‘amazing’.
She said she had been ‘battling the system’ since her first child was born. She has three autistic children, aged nine, ten and 14.
The lack of educational, social and health support was leaving SEND children abandoned, she said, and even further disadvantaged compared to other children.