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Hackney parents taking fight over special educational needs cuts to Supreme Court

PUBLISHED: 14:19 13 April 2018 | UPDATED: 14:19 13 April 2018

A huge protest took place outisde Hackney Town Hall. Picture: Melissa Byers

A huge protest took place outisde Hackney Town Hall. Picture: Melissa Byers

Archant

Parents are taking their fight against cuts to special educational needs services in Hackney to the Supreme Court.

The Hackney Special Education Crisis (HSEC) has so far crowdfunded £4,660 to cover legal costs, as it builds a case against Hackney Council with the intention of launching a judicial review.

The special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) budget was cut by 5 per cent in April after a £6.1m shortfall last year. The move could force schools into cutting services like teaching specialists or speech and language therapy.

HSEC activist Gillian Doherty told the Gazette: “The thing with disabled children is that they do have legal protection and we have realised that through funding cuts that those legal rights are being eroded in a way that is unacceptable, so our campaign is as much about exposing that locally as it is nationally.”

In February the Gazette reported on a large protest outside Hackney Town Hall, where parents and activists urged against further SEND cuts. The council blames its decision on a government funding freeze since 2011/12.

Martin Powell-Davies, of the National Union of Teachers said: “The pressures on education budgets in Hackney are a shocking example of the impossible demands being made by this government on councils across London. Cuts are starving councils of the resources they need to support High Needs Pupils.”

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “The high needs budget for pupils with special educational needs is £6 billion – the highest on record, and core school funding will rise to a record £43.5bn by 2020.

“We want to make sure all families and children with special educational needs get the support they need – which is why we are undertaking the biggest reforms in a generation to put families at the heart of the process.”

HSEC are working with law firm Irwin Mitchell LLP, who are also consulting similar groups across the country.

A town hall spokeswoman said: “The council, like many around the country, has been subsidising SEND services from reserves or other budget areas. Unfortunately, ongoing funding pressures is making this increasingly untenable.”

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