Independent councillors quizzed the leaders of Norfolk County Council today about the management of support for children with disabilities and additional needs.
I asked what the Council is doing to ensure the diagnosis pathway for children with Autism and similar conditions is up to the job. Here’s my question at the full council meeting:
North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker is supporting a Bill that will increase training and awareness among teachers of issues relating to Autism and I welcome that. I welcome, too, the County Council’s investment in early support for families of children with Autism and other conditions. But the likelihood is that until the system fully adapts to Neurodiversity, pressure on the Diagnosis Pathway will increase. Can you tell me what the County Council is doing to support the NHS-led service so that the diagnosis pathway works effectively for children?
Penny Carpenter, the councillor in charge (Cabinet Member) of services for children in Norfolk replied that they are working with the NHS to ensure waiting times are brought under control and families are given appropriate support.
Councillor Emma Corlett asked an excellent question about ‘Safety Valve’ funding that is supposed to help the County Council eliminate its large financial deficit in Special Educational Needs (SEND) funding. A recent Schools Week report said Norfolk was already falling behind with its plan and the Department for Education was planning ‘enhanced monitoring’ to force it back on track.
It is worrying that a programme hailed as a major transformation of SEND support in Norfolk has been blown off track already and Emma, rightly, raised concerns that this may result in further reductions in support for families. The Council has to submit a revised plan to the DfE by 31st March so there will no doubt be more news about this very soon.
Emma is County Councillor for Town Close in Norwich. She, and fellow councillor Maxine Webb, recently left the Labour group at County Hall and now sit as ‘non-aligned’ members. They are both long-term campaigners on SEND issues.
You can watch the Council meeting online here. Emma’s question is 39 minutes in. Mine is 1 hour, 27 minutes, 24 seconds in.
The EDP article featuring Duncan Baker’s support for an Autism training Bill is here.
This is the Schools Week article about the government’s demand for a re-write of the Council’s SEND strategy.
And here is the School Forum report that gives more details (page 19 onwards). The Schools Forum is a committee of education leaders that is consulted by the County Council over funding issues. Norfolk County Council calls its version of the ‘Safety Valve’ SEND funding package, ‘Local First Inclusion’.