Bristol’s Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (Send) budget, was further protected for a year last night, after £2.7M in funding was allocated during a full council meeting.
A £2M will come from a different part of the schools budget. An additional £700,000 will come from the general fund which has been given special permission from the Secretary of State and can only be done once.
Additionally, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, Anna Keen, promised to ‘reset’ the High Needs Block Budget and make no further savings against it in the next financial year.
She also confirmed that Bristol City Council would not be appealing the results of the Judicial Review that took place in July. This was despite Councillor Craig Cheney, Deputy Mayor with responsibility for Finance stating at the time that they were ‘disappointed’ by the court’s decision.
The Send Motion was proposed by Liberal Democrat councillor for Hengrove and Whitchurch Park, Tim Kent.
He had said in his Send motion that Bristol is ‘failing’ in its legal duty towards Send children and that outcomes for the children concerned were ‘poor’.
This was backed up by a series of parents making public statements to council, highlighting how the council had failed children in the city through EHC needs assessments, plans and budget cuts.
There was concern in the public gallery as the meeting threatened to spill past the deadline, which could have seen the motion moved to a future meeting.
Cllr Tony Carey in response to unrest shouted “who asked you,” before standing up to apologise.
There were further mumblings from the Conservatives after feeling that Lord Mayor Cleo Lake’s request to extend the meeting by 15 minutes to discuss the motion was too long.
Green councillor Gerome Thomas said: It’s unfortunate the Adults, Children and Education Scrutiny responsible for scrutinising this area has not met once in the last year. It’s possible that these difficulties could have been avoided if adequate scrutiny had been taking place. Let’s make sure that Scrutiny’s meeting at the right frequency in the future, so that we can try and deal with problems before they happen rather than after they happen.”
The Adults, Children and Education Scrutiny Commission when it comes to children is responsible for the overview and scrutiny of early help, safeguarding, child protection social work, safeguarding, services for children in care, care leavers and disabled children and their families.
It is also responsible for specialist education and access and employment, learning and skills.
In our statement to council, we said: “Council staff are poorly informed, poorly trained, appear not to follow legal guidelines and have an arbitrary threshold for agreeing to assess. It’s a disgrace.
“Bristol City Council is not failing children in the city. It has failed them and continues to fail them now.”
Anna Keen continued to say: “we need to look to the 2019-20 budget as well and setting this will be challenging but it will take place with equality at its absolute core. And with proper consideration given to all who any potential changes will impact on.”
More detailed and user friendly guides for families, schools and professionals involved in Send funding in a bid to end the Send challenges families have been facing has also been promised.
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