Bristol Education and SEND News

Bristol Cabinet Lead For Education Insults Disabled Families

Insulting comments made ahead of cutting Disabled pupils’ transport

Bristol’s Cabinet lead for Education took a swipe at Send families unable to take part in public forum at Cabinet this week.

Councillor Asher Craig, the Deputy Mayor with responsibility for Children’s Services, Education and Equalities, made the comments during her introduction to cuts to Bristol’s Home to School Travel policy for pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disability (Send).

She told Cabinet that before introducing report she wanted to make ‘a point’.

Craig said: “In all the years I’ve sat here in Cabinet, I’ve never kind of witnessed what we’ve seen today around allotments, libraries, parks and green spaces. I’ve never seen that level of passion directed at children’s services, adult social care, the serious violence that is happening in our city, never. They’re the biggest budgets, the city seems to show very little interest in those areas of work. I think I just wanted to make that point.”

Proposals to stop council-arranged home to School Travel for pupils aged 16-18 years of age went on to be passed at the meeting.

Other changes to the service included the introduction of a passenger code of conduct for Disabled children and young people.

There will also be ‘changes’ to how the service will be delivered. This will include pushing independent travel training and forcing Disabled pupils to walk to meeting points.

Cabinet meetings always take place at 4pm carrying on into the evening when families are most likely to be on the school run and committed to caring duties.

Craig’s comments don’t tally with the mood in Bristol. One parent told us that the comments were ‘offensive gaslighting’ and a ‘further attack’ on the city’s Send families.

Since 2018, there has been one high profile judicial review against unlawful cuts made to the high needs block. Bristol Send Justice was also set up to counter poor decision making around Send by Bristol City Council. The group’s actions have seen the local authority forced to backtrack on decision making that included two attempts to close the Bristol SEN team to new Education Health Care Needs Assessments.

In 2022, Bristol City Council was hit by allegations of covert surveillance by Bristol parents, which just a week later saw the council cut ties with the city’s Parent Carer Forum.

More recently, Bristol was forced to drop their Fair and Affordable Care Policy, after national outrage at a plan threatening to warehouse Disabled people in residential care instead of supporting independent living.

The last item on the same agenda caused public outrage ahead of the meeting. Bristol City Council revealed in papers added the day before that it had been in secret talks with the Department of Education since July 2023 to go onto the Safety Valve – a controversial way of reducing budgets spent on Send.

The late addition to the meeting had meant Send families had been unable to contribute to public forum on the matter.

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