‘Stop SEND cuts’: Parents protest against planned funding reductions
A group of more than 30 people – many parents of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) – held placards before a cabinet meeting on Wednesday evening (November 8).
Many said they were concerned about proposals to cut funding for transporting children to specialist schools by encouraging car sharing or taking ride-share taxis such as Uber.
Havering Council is also one of 55 councils across the country to join Delivering Better Value in SEND, a government programme that will try to cut costs through early intervention and teaching children with special needs in mainstream schools.
It also reportedly includes targets of “at least a 20 per cent reduction” in new Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs).
Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), Havering mother Liz Cole said: “A lot of these children have autism and [attention deficit hyperactivity disorder] so it’s not going to do anything to their condition to have early intervention.”
Liz, whose four-year-old son is autistic and non-verbal, said it is “incredibly difficult” to get an ECHP, which sets out what support the council is legally required to provide.
She added: “It just feels like they are determined to save money and are taking advantage of a group that can’t speak for themselves.
“Parents who are already trying to keep families well, and now they’re having to fight for every single thing.”
Liz said some parents are “terrified” of rocking the boat if they feel their child has a good level of support, while others are struggling, angry or “despairing”.
Many are given ECHPs that use “danger phrases” that could be used to lower the amount of support offered, such as “needs access to” or “may benefit from”, she claimed.
During the protest, council staff handed out a printed statement that said the Delivering Better Value programme is “only one aspect” of a wider plan to improve SEND services across England.
It added: “Where it is successfully delivered, it will reduce the need for some children to have an Education, Health and Care Plan in order to receive the help they need.
“In Havering, we expect the numbers of children with an EHCP to increase over the next five or more years and our £70million capital investment into schools, will be primarily on SEND places”.
The statement added that changes to the council’s transport policy are in the public consultation stage, with a final decision to be made in the New Year.
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