‘They do not give a damn about our kids’ – SEN parents forum has cash axed without warning

PUBLISHED: 18:00 10 June 2017

Archant

A row between a forum for parents whose children have special educational needs (SEN) and North Somerset Council has broken out after the authority did not tell the committee it had not approved its funding.

Guy Kingston of North Somerset Parent Carers.Guy Kingston of North Somerset Parent Carers.

The North Somerset Parent Carers (NSPC) forum gives a voice to parents whose children have special educational needs (SEN) and disabilities.

Parents told the Mercury they feel invisible and are often treated as a nuisance while they try to get help for their children – and the forum lets them air their views.

However, the NSPC has been forced to suspend its services as it has no income.

Weston-super-Mare mum Amy Legg, who said she has been ‘desperate’ to have her son diagnosed with autism for the past two years, said: “It is one more thing being cancelled because they do not give a damn about us or our kids. Nearly all the support is going.”

NSPC chairman Guy Kingston believes the council dispute stretches back to November 2016, when the forum was publicly critical of Weston Area Health Trust (WAHT) continuing to run community health services.

He said children experienced excessive waits and inadequate provision.

In March, the forum learned the council had not renewed its £5,000 funding, a decision made in January without the committee being informed.

The NSPC also relied on a £15,000 Government grant, which had to be approved by the council.

Prior to the approval being given, the authority offered the forum a code of conduct to sign, but Mr Kingston said this would have effectively gagged members from speaking to the press.

He said: “We know we are being silenced because we were highly critical of WAHT.

“We know how services could be improved and money could be saved.”

The council has since offered to take part in mediation with the forum.

A council spokesman said: “We have worked really hard to continue the positive relationship we have developed over many years with the NSPC, and we are saddened this is now proving difficult.”

The spokesman acknowledged the council should have notified NSPC it would not receive council funding, and confirmed the authority will not fund any additional participation groups this year.


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