Council needs to show more leadership over special educational needs failings

Cllr James Airey

Councillor James Airey, Cumbria County Council’s Conservative group leader, commenting on the results of the Joint local area special educational needs inspection in Cumbria, said:

“This report is deeply concerning and will hopefully act as a wake-up call to the county council’s cabinet members.

“Inspectors have found that the pace of change within the county is too slow, too patchy and too late for many children who have been repeatedly let down.

“It is encouraging that most children, young people and families spoke in glowing terms to inspectors about our passionate, skilled and committed front-line staff. The sad facts from this report, however, show that staff and families have been allowed to fall into the chasm between the council’s rhetoric on better joined-up working with health services, and the realities on the ground.

“The council cannot continue to use local government funding as an excuse for poor performance. The report finds that the council’s over-reliance on out-of-county placements for children with specialist needs has ended up costing more money. Equally, inspectors found that while children and families in some parts of the county receive good access to short breaks and other support services, other parts of Cumbria are being poorly served. This is about leadership.

“The conclusion in the report that there is a lack of understanding about the needs of children with special educational needs is a huge concern. Rather than more excuses and warm words from the council’s cabinet members, we need to see real action to fix this for Cumbria’s children and families starting today.”

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