‘DISTRESSED and angry’ campaigners have slammed county councillors for making ‘offensive and ignorant’ comments about children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) in Warwickshire.
SEND Crisis Warwickshire (SCW) described some Conservative councillors’ remarks at the Warwickshire County Council (WCC) Children’s and Young People’s Overview and Scrutiny Meeting last month as ‘sensationalist tabloid language’.
At the meeting, Coun Brian Hammersley questioned the increase in SEND diagnoses, asking: “Is it something in the water? Why are there so many people now jumping out with these needs? Where were they when I was at school?”
After being told by a council officer that many were in institutions in the 60s or 70s, he said: “They must have had better ways of dealing with them. Let’s go back to some of those ways.”
Coun Jeff Morgan was sceptical over “automatically accepting the plea of a mother saying that little Willy has got ADHD, when in actual fact he is just really badly behaved and needs some form of strict correction.”
And Coun Clare Golby spoke about websites where “families are swapping tips on how to get their children diagnosed,” adding: “What comes down to parenting, and what comes down to actually SEND issues?”
A spokesperson for SCW expressed ‘dismay and disappointment’ at the councillors’ ‘discriminatory and stigmatising views’.
They added: “None of us who are caring for and raising a disabled child or child with additional care, support or learning needs ‘want’ or ‘choose’ this life. None of us are doing it for kicks, specialist treatment, attention or a golden ticket.”
They said government cuts, austerity measures and the cost-of-living crisis had left Local Authorities ‘hamstrung’ in addressing SEND needs.
They added: “We ask for a full and unreserved apology from elected members and seek assurance such derogatory language about Warwickshire’s children and families will not be heard in the Council Chamber again.
“We strongly recommend councillors access equality training to ensure they are at the very least conversant in disability, diversity and child and family rights, and statutory duties incumbent on local and national government.”
A spokesperson for WCC’s Labour Group said: “We understand why parents and carers are questioning the trust they put in councillors to act wisely on behalf of their children, if this is the level of understanding they display.
“Some children need specialist provision, which can only be found in specialist settings. It’s true that some types of SEND are identified more often now, and there are complex reasons for this.
“This should make us more determined to build up relationships between families, schools and the council, not make disparaging remarks which make working together even more difficult.”
Alison Kerry, Head of Communications at disability equality charity Scope, said: “Opinions like these should be consigned to history.
“The government has just released its Disability Action Plan. It promised to make this country the most accessible and importantly equal place to live in the world – so everyone can live their lives to the full and thrive.
“Attitudes like these work against the government’s plan, hold society back and demean disabled children. There should be no place for them in public life.”
A WCC spokesperson said the council had received a number of complaints about the comments, adding: “The council’s Monitoring Officer is considering these complaints and it would be inappropriate to comment while that process is underway.”
Councillors Golby, Hammersley and Morgan have not responded to requests for comment.
Members of SCW are due to meet with WCC Leader Coun Izzi Seccombe tomorrow (Wednesday February 7) to discuss the matter.
Visit http://tinyurl.com/29dju53s for SCW’s advice on how to complain to the council.