THOUSANDS have called for three Warwickshire County Councillors to be sacked for making ‘offensive and ignorant’ comments about children with special needs.
A petition calling for the dismissal of Conservative Councillors Brian Hammersley, Jeff Morgan and Clare Golby has attracted over 23,000 signatures, despite their public apologies – making it the fastest-growing petition with a local scope on the Change.org platform in 2024.
The petition was started by Melvyna Hawes, a Warwickshire parent to an autistic six-year-old.
She said: “I am deeply troubled by the actions of this local council.
“This discriminatory viewpoint is unacceptable from those who hold public office. Their words reflect a broader issue within our council where SEN funding is regarded as a last priority.
“My son is non-verbal and currently out of school because no mainstream school can accommodate his needs, yet there are no available places at SEND provisions. This situation affects many families in Warwickshire.
“We demand that Warwickshire Council immediately dismiss Councillors Morgan, Golby, and Hammersley for their discriminatory remarks against SEND children.
“Furthermore, we insist on an immediate review of how SEND funding is prioritised within the council’s budget allocations.”
At the Warwickshire County Council (WCC) Children’s and Young People’s Overview and Scrutiny Meeting last month, Coun Hammersley asked if rising SEND diagnoses were due to “something in the water”, and suggested a return to the days of institutionalisation.
Coun Morgan suggested some children with ADHD were “just really badly behaved and need some form of strict correction”.
And Coun Golby said: “What comes down to parenting, and what comes down to SEND issues?”
In an apology issued on Wednesday (February 7), Coun Hammersley said: “I regret my clumsiness and lack of care in choosing my words and can see the upset and offence they caused. I can see that I have some learning to do.”
Coun Morgan said: “It was never my intention to offend, and I regret the words I used to make a point about demand and need in the SEND area.”
Coun Golby said: “I accept that the words I used at the meeting were open to interpretation. I apologise for any offence caused.”
Acknowledging the comments caused ‘significant offence, distress and upset’ to families in the SEND community, WCC has distanced itself from the councillors’ remarks, and says an investigation is underway.
A spokesperson for SEND Crisis Warwickshire (SCW) said the councillors’ comments were ‘discriminatory and stigmatising’.
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.
SCW organised a protest outside WCC’s Shire Hall HQ in Warwick today (Thursday February 8), calling for the councillors to be sacked.
Visit http://tinyurl.com/4ywc243w to sign the petition.