Parents of disabled children force U-turn on special needs cuts plan
Families of disabled children have forced the council to abandon plans to change funding arrangements for children with high level special needs in Hackney.
Parent-led campaign group Hackney Special Needs Crisis said they were 'delighted' Hackney Council had abadoned its 'unlawful and catasrophic plans'.
Families calculated that the changes would have resulted in some high needs pupils in mainstream schools losing up to 90% of their funding.
Hackney Council announced it was halting the plans after analysing an unprecedented 1,500 responses to its six-week SEND funding arrangements consultation.
But the campaign group warned the fight was 'not over yet' because the council was still planning significant additional cuts to special needs funding over the next two years, including cuts to special schools.
Hackney Council announced the U-turn only hours before 200 disabled children, parents and their supporters gathered outside Hackney Town hall for a torch-light rally calling for an end to all cuts affecting disabled children in Hackney.
Protesters wore day-glow to 'shine a light' on the scale of cuts affecting some of the most vulnerable children in Hackney.
Children and young people addressed the rally and joined a deputation to the full council meeting where they told councillors how the cuts would affect their ability to learn alongside their non-disabled peers.
In a statement, Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, Hackney's deputy mayor and cabinet lead for children and young people, said: 'We have listened to feedback during the consultation, and in useful meetings with parents and teachers, and as a result I will recommend to Cabinet next month that we do not to go forward with the proposed changes.'
Cllr Bramble said there was a 'hidden education funding crisis' because SEND services had been chronically underfunded by central government for many years.
London has a £100m shortfall in SEND funding while Hackney's shortfall stands at £6.1m. The Government has frozen funding for SEND pupils since 2011-12 despite an increase in disabled and vulnerable pupils needing extra support.
A parent from the campaign group said they were aware the council was grappling with a funding shortfall but the council still had a 'moral and legal duty' to protect and prioritise funding for Hackney's most vulnerable pupils.
'We are campaigning nationally for increased SEND funding but our children in Hackney need support now to help them attend school, communicate or move safely around school.
'Disabled children already experince huge inequalities compared with non disabled pupils. Any cut in support will have a catastrophic affect on their life chances and put them at even greater disavantage,' she added.