Schools in England forced to cut support for SEND pupils
A third of English schools have been forced to cut support for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) according to a new survey of headteachers.
Almost all (97%) said that funding for SEND pupils was inadequate, and 95% said funding was also insufficient for those on education, health and care plans with greater needs.
Four-fifths told the National Association of Head Teachers that they had been forced to buy extra services, including speech and language therapy, educational psychologists and mental health support, which before austerity policy was brought in, would have been provided by local councils, often more cost-effectively.
One head said she had to “balance the needs of one child against the needs of a class of children”.
Over a third said they would have to make further cuts this academic year.
NAHT General Secretary Paul Whiteman, said: “The crisis in funding for pupils with special educational needs is clear for all to see and is putting significant pressure on school budgets.” Read more here.
Children’s services shortage leads to acute beds crisis
A third of all children’s acute hospital beds in parts of England are being occupied by vulnerable children who do not need acute medical care but have nowhere else to go, reports the Guardian.
Police are increasingly called to help restrain the children, or to bring them back when they run away. Paediatricians told the Guardian they have had to deal with vulnerable children who were not physically ill but displayed such challenging behaviour that they could not be looked after in children’s homes.
“It is estimated that roughly a third of acute hospital beds at the moment are full of these vulnerable young people, many who are subject to child protection plans, or they are already children in care, living in a residential placement that’s falling apart,” said Dr Emilia Wawrzkowicz, a paediatric consultant who is the assistant officer for child protection at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH).
DR UK’s Fazilet Hadi said: The word vulnerable doesn’t help us to understand the genuine needs of these children. If they are experiencing mental distress then a hospital ward is definitely not the right place. The Government’s White Paper on Mental Health earlier this year spoke about increasing community support but things aren’t moving fast enough. We are letting down a generation of children with mental health challenges and we need to act quickly to offer them hope and a chance in life.”
UN calls UC cuts ‘unconscionable’
The UN has joined charities, welfare groups and the Labour party in condemnation of the planned £20 per week cut to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits due at the beginning of October. They say that it is an “unconscionable” move that breaches international human rights law and is likely to trigger an explosion of poverty.
Earlier this week, the Health Foundation warned that the cuts are likely to lead to poorer mental health and wellbeing for thousands of families.
The shadow work and pensions secretary, Jonathan Reynolds said: “I’m trying to get across to people the scale of this.” He told the Guardian: “This is the biggest overnight cut to a benefit rate ever in the history of the welfare state. The House of Commons library tells me it’s bigger than the cut to unemployment benefit in 1931, which collapsed the government. This is big money.”
The Treasury has said that cancelling the reduction would require tax increases. 5.5 million families and 1.7m people who are unable to work will be affected.
Lords: Government failing to implement Equality Act
Despite the recent publication of its National Disability Strategy, the Government is continuing to fail disabled people by not implementing provisions in the 2010 Equality Act. Those are the findings of a new House of Lords report.
The new National Strategy does not set out proposals to implement key provisions in the Equality Act which have not been brought into force in the 11 years since they became law. Clauses in the Act that the Committee have identified as requiring improvement or implementation and which the Strategy does not address include:
- Requiring all public sector organisations to apply the Public Sector Equality Duty effectively. The Committee says this is often operated as a ‘tick-box’ exercise because the requirement to have ‘due regard’ to equality issues is too weak and emphasises procedure rather than outcomes. The burden often falls on disabled people to enforce their own rights. The Committee says all public bodies should be required to implement a ‘plan of action’ for how they will meet the requirement of the equality duty.
- Access to taxis and private hire vehicles. Section 163 of the Equality Act requires licenced taxis to comply with accessibility regulations, but despite being on the statute books for more than 20 years it has never been implemented, meaning disabled people still find it hard to access taxi services. The Committee calls on the Government to implement the provision with immediate effect and to amend it to ensure it covers Private Hire Vehicles as well as licenced taxis.
- Access to sports stadia. The Committee says that the Equality Act has not given Disabled sports fans equal access to sports stadia to which they are entitled. The Act relies on individuals taking action against institutions that are not meeting the requirements and often disabled sports fans are reluctant to take action against a sports club they support. The Committee calls on the Government to introduce a Bill to give local authorities power to refuse a safety certificate to large sports stadiums that do not comply with accessible stadia guidelines.
Baroness Deech, Chair of the Equality Act 2010 and Disability Committee, said: “While our report was compiled before the Government published its National Disability Strategy, it is clear that the Strategy still does not address long standing failures to implement equality requirements that have been in law, but largely ignored and unenforced for more than a decade.
Fazilet Hadi, DR UK Head of Policy said “The Government should act now to implement all provisions of the Equality Act. It is hard to have confidence in the Government’s commitment to improving the lives of Disabled people when key sections of the Equality Act remain unimplemented, 11 years after the Act came into force.”
Policing Bill would leave ‘toxic’ legacy
Home secretary Priti Patel has been told by 350 organisations, including human rights groups, charities and faith bodies, that measures in the Policing Bill to restrict protest would have a “profound impact” on freedom of expression, and represent “an attack on some of the most basic democratic rights of citizens”.
Disabled former home secretary Lord Blunkett said: “This bill will drive a wedge between the police and ordinary people doing what you would expect them to do in a mature democracy – expressing dissent on issues they care passionately about. It will leave a lasting and toxic legacy for this government because it is not only the centre and left of politics who care about protest. It is across the political spectrum.” Lord Falconer has also expressed strong concerns about the Bill.
DR UK’s Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “Too often in our history it is only protest which has got Disabled people noticed by wider society and the government. That protest has helped chip away at the long list of changes we need to see in society to bring about the social model of disability and true parity of accessibility for us across the board. We must be allowed to stand up for our rights, to gather, make noise, and be heard for positive change to be made.”
Police office assaults autistic boy in school
A police officer has been convicted of assault after a 10 year-old boy was captured on CCTV being dragged across the floor and threatened with being kicked while at school.
The hearing heard that after assaulting the boy, Cruise walked into a classroom and asked children if they could hear the boy crying. He pointed at a child and said: “You’re next”.
He avoided dismissal from the police force as he retired after the incident.
DR UK’s CEO Kamran Mallick said: “It is atrocious that there is no mandatory training across the UK’s police forces on how to behave around Disabled people, especially children. The ‘Neurodiversity in the criminal justice system’ report released this summer showed that few people have little to no training. We will be writing to the NPCC to start a conversation about why this training matters and needs to be put in place.” Read more here.
50% of people fear their houses aren’t fit to live in if Disabled
Over half of British adults say they will have to leave their homes if they become physically disabled, new research commissioned by Habinteg Housing Association reveals.
The YouGov survey shows that 55% of British adults, who do not have a mobility difficulty, think they would not be able to live in their current home due to its design and layout, if they become physically disabled.
Habinteg’s Chief Executive, Nick Apetroaie, said: “Adequate housing is fundamental to inclusion and equality for disabled and older people, but there’s simply not enough supply for the growing demand.
“The Government’s disability strategy promises more research into inclusive and accessible housing. However, we need action fast rather than more research to solve the immediate and long term needs of the population.”
BMA drops opposition to assisted dying
The British Medical Association has voted to amend its position on assisted dying from one of opposition to one of neutrality. Read more here.
‘I would have closed Cawston Hall’ – Norfolk Council care boss
The head of adult social care in Norfolk has said he would have closed Cawston Park hospital, if he had possessed the power to do so after the deaths of three patients with learning disabilities.
Ben King, 32, Nicholas Briant, 33, and Joanna Bailey, 36, died within just over two years of each other. A shocking report showed huge failures in care, including one man being hit by a staff member as he was dying.
Norfolk County Council’s Adult Social Care Director James Bullion said he had “lost confidence” in Jeesal Group, the company which ran the hospital. The group still runs nine other care homes across the county.
He went on: “We won’t be placing anyone else with Jeesal. It’s fair to say we have lost confidence in Jeesal and we have been taking action to ensure the social care provision they run is safe.”
Another of Jeesal’s homes, Westbrook House in Cromer, was shut down after the Care Quality Commission put it into special measures.
DR UK’s Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “Despite endless reports, we continue to hear about the horrific treatment experienced by people with learning disabilities in residential care.
It is utterly appalling that the system allows companies to continue to run care services even after reports like this clearly reveal their devastating failings.
A change in the law is needed to tighten regulation and ensure that the CQC and or councils can act quickly to cease or take- over service provision in these circumstances.”