Highlighting the SEND crisis

At the Full Council meeting at Norfolk’s County Hall today, I moved a motion highlighting the crisis in SEND funding and calling on the Council to press for urgent national action to tackle that crisis. I’m disappointed that the Conservatives chose to amend the motion to remove direct reference to the families who joined the SEND Crisis march in Norwich: my motion thanked them for making their voice heard. But the amended motion did pass unanimously.

This was my speech:

Thank you chair

I am sorry that our group is bringing forward just one motion today as debate on our second one was blocked but it’s a tragedy that I have to move this motion at all.

While politicians in Westminster have spent three years fiddling over Brexit, our education system has been burning. The SEND support system in particular seems like it is almost close to collapse.

It’s good to know that at least some of our MPs have been trying to draw attention to the SEND crisis so I am glad we can acknowledge the work of the education select committee. But this needs executive action. It needs our new Prime Minister, Chancellor and Education Secretary to commit to reversing the trend of SEND funding simply not keeping pace with demand. It also needs health services and education services to work together for parents and children. This is a whole system problem.

And we have to acknowledge that stand-still funding just won’t cut it. Ive said before in committee that in a strange way growing demand is a cause for celebration. It means there is a growing awareness of Autistic Spectrum Disorders for example and a will to provide support. It means children with complex physical needs can expect to live more fulfilling lives, less disabled by society. But a growing demand, demands growing funding.

These debates tend to be accompanied by a blizzard of statistics. I want to avoid that by just quoting from two people who have contacted me in recent weeks with their story:

One parent from my division:

There is an ever growing need for complex needs schools but you can’t access them without a diagnosis and getting a diagnosis for autism/ADHD is virtually impossible. There are 300 tribunal cases pending…we are one of them! So kids like our son are lost in the system.

Another from a parent in Norwich:

Our daughter is diagnosed with Autism, learning difficulties and sensory processing disorder. Because she couldn’t cope with the school environment she was placed on a part time timetable. At her summer term EHCP review the school confirmed it couldn’t meet her needs. Come September 2018 she was unable to attend school at all. The Local Authority suggested that if she could not attend full time we would be pursued by the attendance officer. We were left with the only option of pursuing tribunal.

These stories will be common to all of us from the people we represent and show why so many families joined the SEND Crisis march a few weeks ago and I want to record my own personal thanks to them for attending and my regret that they have to march to demand support that ought to be theirs by right.

I move the motion.