One hour has been allocated on the agenda for public speaking subject to the Chair exercising his discretion to extend the time available.
1) The Chair welcomed Councillor Tricia Elliott, a member of Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council, who wished to speak in support of the motion concerning SEND.
Councillor Elliott focused principally on the plight of children with Autism. Expressing concern over the length of waiting lists for support she suggested that a better understanding of Autism in mainstream schools would help in the identification of Autism and improve how children were treated. Council was informed that some schools adopt an overly disciplined approach to children with Autism. This can lead to school refusal by the child. The case of one child was cited. This child, who had not flourished at their school had moved to another one outside of Warwickshire. In the new environment, their level of attainment had increased and they were now of university level. In another instance a visually impaired child with Autism was disciplined for attention seeking. Councillor Elliott concluding by stating that conveying Autistic children out of county for their education was negligent. If the needs of children could be met in the mainstream environment there would potentially be less demand for EHCPs.
2) The second speaker, Cass Leese, had given her apologies. Councillor Helen Adkins (Leader of the Labour Group) read out the essence of Ms Leese’s statement. This focused on the need for greater funding for SEND services. Having cited a number of reports the statement ended,
“For those children with SEND, not accessing support is life-changing and life-altering. We are aware that Warwickshire is urging schools to be more inclusive, a wholly admirable aspiration. But regardless, many SEND children - such as those with autism, a background of trauma or neurodiversity and / or social emotional and mental health difficulties, being in a mainstream setting without an EHCP and the additional intensive support it brings, is impossible. These children are being set up to fail, not just at school, but in life. It leaves these children at risk of social isolation, academic failure, mental health problems and for some, on a collision course with exclusion from school.
The buck has to stop here. Cabinet (Council) has the authority and duty to lobby central government.
We urge Cabinet (Council) to support this motion to set up a Task & Finish Group plus petition to address the SEND funding gap - which we are aware is projected in Warwickshire to be a deficit of £150m in a decade.
Officers are working incredibly hard to make efficiencies and find solutions to minimise this outcome. But they are not magicians or miracle workers. And even with strict plans in place, which of themselves will have a huge impact on thousands of children, young people and their families, the plans only reduce the decade’s deficit to £91m”.
3) Councillor Helen Adkins read out a statement from Councillor Mini Mangat, Deputy Leader of the Labour Group, Warwick District Council.
“I support this motion on the pressing and urgent issues posed by racial discrimination and inequality. The world is shifting on its axis and just as WCC has supported the urgency of climate change with a real commitment, so must this growing societal emergency be responded to. It is shameful that inequality is so persistent in societies, here in Warwickshire and across the globe. I am in no doubt that WCC takes its obligations to equality and diversity seriously but that is not enough, council has a responsibility to take action that will contribute to the eradication of racial discrimination and reliance on reaching the requirements of legislation is not sufficient to counter the injustices and trauma that many people in my communities experience, WCC must move beyond compliance; it is not enough to be non-racist WCC must act on being systemically and overtly anti-racist. To champion this fight against racism WCC must listen and learn not only from colleagues but also from members of our communities and use those conversations and dialogue to catalyse action, this is an opportunity to take a fresh look with our communities about what more could be done and learning from them and others to innovate and make measurable progress. As proposer of the race equality motion to WDC and as the Chair of the Task & Finish Group looking at Warwick District Council’s approach to race equality, I support the motions recommendation for the Communities OSC to establish a task and finish group to be charged with undertaking a review of the councils approach to race equality and its report to the committee to include an action plan with a view to the cabinet adopting the committee's recommendations in the report and its action plan, the progress and outcomes of the action plan to be monitored by the Communities OSC with the expectation that measurable improvements will be made within a given time period”.
Councillor Alan Cockburn thanked speakers for their contributions.