Send on the Bristol City Council Agenda for July Cabinet

Bristol Send Cabinet: 

A resourcing plan for Send Function, will be heard at Cabinet on Tuesday 02 July. A total of £1.575m is being asked for to deal with the Send crisis in Bristol. It is a complex plan which will pay for the council to address historic Send failings. But the damage to Bristol children has already been done. We will be looking at the proposals in more detail and in the meantime, I have submitted a statement to Council, addressing concerns.

Statement Regarding the Resourcing Plan for Send Function

Bristol City Council has a duty under the Equality Act 2010, to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, and advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it.

Disability is a protected characteristic, yet in this city, disabled children have been directly discriminated against for a long time. There is no equality of opportunity between children with Send and those without.

Today’s recommendations to Cabinet will not address the deliberate inequality that has been created. The institutional disability discrimination that pervades the length and breadth of Bristol as a Local Authority festers within every department and every facet of its operation. Money will not change attitude and change can only come from the very top down.

Equality, equity and change does not come with empty words. It does not come with empty promises and platitudes. And it does not come with a Consultant Tribunal Manager on £108k for 6/12 months.

Bristol City Council as a Local Authority has been instrumental in the removal of educational opportunities. This has been done through long-term poor planning, the attempted unlawful reduction of the High Needs Budget and a complete disregard for its own consultations which predicted a shortfall of 2019 specialist school places for autistic children five years’ ago.

It is not enough to blame the past and say look what we are doing to put it right now. Right now, there is a generation of children with Send suffering. A generation of children whose education is in ruins. A generation of children whose self esteem and mental health is in tatters. A generation of children who cannot access disability social workers. A generation for whom accessible education is a pipe dream.

Did you realise that children with disabilities, children with Send are neither of those things unless they possess an EHCP? This was something I was told by a Send Business Manager refusing to abide by Local Authority policy.

And of those EHCPs, I am at Week 41 for my son’s and Week 47 for my daughter’s. An entire academic year to get an EHCP – still not got them yet – but a process that should take no more than 20 weeks by law.

One of those EHCP draft plans required me paying for a solicitor because it was not specified or quantified and appeared to have been created with a heavy reliance on Control C, Control V.

Imagine, it’s 2019 and parents are paying for solicitors and having to speak to the media because a Local Authority is failing to provide children with access to education. Except parents don’t have to image. We are living that nightmare.

Once those EHCPs are finalised there are no schools to name on the plan because for autistic children in Bristol, there are no autism special school places. Bristol schools come 150th out of 152 in the country for attendance. Children with Send drop out of mainstream schools which cannot or do not want meet their needs and do you know what? Nobody cares.

As a city, there is money to pay for roadworks. There is money for vanity projects whether they are successful or not. There is money to pay for Send Business Managers that fail to follow council policy. There are thousands to throw away on unusable poor quality consultant reports. There is enough money to pay a school for 40 unfilled resource base places at a rate of £10,000 per year which has been going on for years now.

Make no mistake with these recommendations to Cabinet. This is firefighting. This will not be Send off of the agenda, this is money to pay for what the council has already failed to do. None of this will pay for what needs to come. None of this will replace the education children have missed. None of this will repair the mental health of young people that institutional disability discrimination has caused.

The inequality that disabled children and those with Send face are being addressed only because parents have stood up and said “no more”. When some of Bristol’s most disadvantaged have to stand up with a placard outside of City Hall and beg those at the top to meet their legal obligations, something has gone very wrong with leadership and management.

Yes this money is needed, but it is a Pyrrhic victory. The cost has been too high and the fall out will continue for a long time to come.