#SENDABetterMessage – Online Exhibition

Share your photos that show the injustices in the SEND system

Images and artwork can be powerful ways to show the realities of fighting your way through the SEND system.

We are collating images sent in from parents, young people, professionals and others here in an online exhibition exposing the problems in the SEND system for the world to see. We’ll share these on social media, and collate them and send to government ministers for them to consider as part of the SEND review as part of the #SENDABetterMessage campaign.

To send your own image, please email us at disabledchildrens.partnership@mencap.org.uk with one sentence describing the image and if possible your name and rough location in the UK (you can keep these anonymous if you would like). When sharing photos of your children, please ensure you have fully got their permission where possible.

Photos could be images of paperwork, your family, or artwork – you can get creative and send whatever works for you. We’d also welcome short video clips.

If you post your own photos, you could tag us on social media (on Twitter @DCPcampaign, on Facebook/Instagram @DisabledChildrensPartnership) and use #SENDABetterMessage. To get the attention of politicians, you could also tag the minister in charge of SEND (@willquince) and the Secretary of State for Education (@JamesCleverly).


Two piles of paperwork, one very large one very small, stacked side by side.

From Patricia, the paperwork pile on the right is from fighting constantly to get the support her late disabled son Sammy deserved but tragically did not receive – the paperwork on the left is for her 3 non-disabled daughters.


A frustrated woman standing next to a large tower of paperwork in plastic boxes.

From Linda, this tower of paperwork is from fighting constantly for the support her twins deserve – and they aren’t even the only boxes.


An art installation of a room full of Education, Health and Care Plans.

From Kerry Fox, “Ode to Bureaucracy (2019), an art installation of a room full of Education, Health and Care plans highlighting the bureaucracy faced by parents navigating the system of SEND.


A twisted ball of sheets of Education Health and Care Plans.

From Kerry Fox, “Knotted Twisted Taut Fraught Bundle of Bureaucracy” (2022), twisted sheets of the EHCP bound in rags.


A portrait of a man with text projected onto his face.

From Alfie Fox, “More than my plan” (2020), a digital layer of a page of his EHCP over his portrait.


A frame of a black hole with the words falling down over the top.

From Alfie Fox, “Falling Down (Blackholes) (2019), Alfie Fox Digital Art and collage on newsprint, a response to my transition to adulthood.


A woman covered in red tape and boxing gloves, drowning in paperwork.

From Linda, a creative showcase of the fight in SEND – drowning in paperwork, red tape and fighting tooth and nail for the support her children have a right to.


A self-portrait of a woman in multi-coloured paint.

From Sally. A moment of exhaustion, frustration and realisation as my hair fell out that this ‘chase’ would be our experience until the end of our time in formal education, I decided to paint to chill.


A mum and her daughter posing for a photo in front of a cafe.

From Deanne. A photo of us just getting on with and enjoying life. Despite Amber been 18, no transition plans, no contact from Local authority regarding the transition of our support package, and health stuff stuck. I won’t let it spoil my girls life… others not so lucky!


A figure of a person falling through a net.

From Dee. Fighting for an EHCP for my grandson for eight years. He has complex medical needs and a brain injury. I have been told by so many agencies “He has slipped through the net”.


A cartoon of a SEND parent not being listened to by a teacher.

From @friendofSEND on Twitter and Instagram. They’re all drawn by one parent, and are pretty self explanatory examples of their family’s genuine experiences of trying to access support.



A cartoon of a teacher putting pressure on a SEND parent over their child's attendance rates at school.



A cartoon of a SEND parent not receiving proper support from their child's school.


A cartoon of a SEND parent requesting referrals for support for their child, but a school refusing.


A short cartoon parent pulling a wheelbarrow of paperwork with the caption 'I'm fine'.

From Tracey. Little miss parent carer… always ‘fine’, constantly tired, collecting documents, always advocating, worrying, planning, and dragging her baggage everywhere


A parent carer with boxing gloves, battered and bruised, claiming victory in a match against a professional.

From Tracey. Parent carers far too often have to fight through a confrontational and bureaucratic process to get the support they and their children have a human right to.


A picture of a figure surrounded by eyes watching them.

From Gemma’s daughter, Genevieve. ‘The guilt of being different.’ I’m the one in the middle and all the eyes are looking at me waiting for me to change to be just like them.


A vivid painting with dark, powerful colours.

From Diane. I ‘paint’ my feelings. Dark, angry, frustrated, continually being sent in circles, repeating and repeating. Having the life and colour sucked out of everything trying to navigate the various systems and daily life. Adrift in a void through which I can barely see or touch or reach the colourful, fruitful and alive part of every day life.


A vivid painting with dark, powerful colours.


A vivid painting with dark, powerful colours.


A series of t-shirt surrounding a cupboard, describing a young boy's journey through different SEND schools.

From Amy. ‘William’s Journey’. Our wonderful William’s fight through the SEND education system in Central Bedfordshire. A bright, friendly, academically-able boy with autism and Marfan Syndrome.


Two pictures of a child side by side, one where they are happy and smiling with their dog, the other they are in distress with their fingers in their ears.

From Rachel. Not in school vs in school. The impact of not having your needs met, not having a suitable school and no one understanding you and only caring about ticking boxes and attendance.


A red and white photo of a young person with the words ignored on their lips.

From Ellen, NW England, whose lived experience is having no voice. Image created by Ellen of Ellen– ‘People talk about me but never to me’


An artwork of a young boy being surrounded my large posters about the lack of support he has received for his condition.

From Andrea and her son Bertie, Central Bedfordshire. ‘Damaged for life, five educational settings in five years, assaulted and locked in a cupboard’.


An outline of a person on a background; they look sad.

From, Urszula, Brighton and Hove. SEND = ‘Special Educational Needs Despair!’ Despair: – to no longer have any hope or belief that a situation will improve or change.


Two stacked piles of paperwork in boxes in a bedroom.

From Alison, Hertfordshire. SEND Tribunal paperwork, sadly there were many more Tribunals to follow #stillfighting.


A self-portrait of a young man slumped in a chair, looking to the sky with elongated arms.

From Laura, a self-portrait by her son. “It took 5 years to get my son Daniel an assessment for autism, battling every system. High School destroyed him. He got no help at all until he was 18. He would be okay but his needs have been unmet for a long time. He and many others like him deserved better.”


A drawing of a young person collapsed at their desk from pressures of school.

From Ellen. Suffering – how my 13 year old neurodivergent son feels about school (drawn by him). How can we call ourselves a first world country when our education system traumatises and damages these young people day in, day out?


An overlapping group of papers.

From Nida. My son was refused a placement in a special needs school by the local authority, so I had to appeal, learn the system and become my own lawyer.
Here is a photo depicting the struggle.


Picture of a young man wrapped in a sleeping bag, so you can only see his bare hands and knees, sitting on a concrete floor by a metal gate and brick wall

“Been waiting for education since 2014. #extendedLockdown” – from Kelly


Picture of a reclining young women, with repeated handwritten text behind her saying "I must not achieve my dreams". One of the 'not's is underlined.

From Sam, featuring her daughter Elvi – “I must not achieve my dreams”


A collage of five pictures, each showing a young person hidden under a blanket. In three, he is on a sofa, one in a car, and one on the street. Only in the one of the street is any of the young person visible, and in that one it is just a bare foot.

The Many Faces of Burnout – from Jo.  Jo says “These are the many faces of burnout, a 9 year old now 10 who can’t leave the house, who struggles to engage beyond a screen, is in perpetual fight flight freeze. Who had been out of school a year and we have had to borrow c£40,000 to cover assessments, legal costs to take the LA to tribunal for an eotas package and pay for professional help eg psychiatrist; as well as impact on family mental health, career and finances


Picture of a damaged ceiling in a classroom

“The reality of SEN provision ? Always an afterthought.” – a picture from Kirstie of her classroom ceiling from 2017. Kirstie told us “This fell down during the summer exam period and was not fixed until October. Every room had holes in the ceiling and damp-soaked walls. The children would say the walls are crying when it rained. This was an alternative provision setting. When the mainstream management, who allocate funding fail to prioritise essential maintenance the children felt undervalued. All whilst a million pound sports hall was being built for mainstream pupils that our children never got to use.”