Hackney campaigners fighting to protect funding for children with disabilities and special needs

Melanie Norton (centre) with fellow protestors outside Hackney Town Hall.

Melanie Norton (centre) with fellow protestors outside Hackney Town Hall. - Credit: Archant

Campaigners who are fighting to protect funding to support children with disabilities and special educational needs believe their cries for help are falling on deaf ears.

Members of the Hackney inclusion specialist support team – as well as Hackney NUT – took part in their sixth day of lobbying outside Hackney Town Hall on Wednesday last week in response to the threat of 50 per cent of the service being cut.

The team – made up of three specialist teachers and six early years nursery officers – supports 286 children with “complex needs” and a further 400 kids who have extra support with speech, language, social or mental health needs.

“Early intervention is proven to be one of the most effective ways to spend money,” said Melanie Norton, who works for the early support team within the service.

“If you cut that early intervention, it’s going to cost more money in the future for things like specialist school places.

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“At the moment the only people noticing it are the children – it feels like nobody’s listening.”

A petition – which can be found by searching for “don’t let Hackney Council cut the early support team” at change.org – with more than a thousand signatures will be sent to the council in due course.

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Anne Canning, Hackney Council’s group director for children, adults and community health, said “funding pressures” on council budgets had forced them to make “tough decisions” on how their services are delivered.

Ms Canning added staff and trade unions had been consulted, and insisted the council would be gathering further feedback from early years settings, teachers and staff.

“We know how important the inclusion and specialist support service is to families across Hackney, and want to ensure that it operates in a way that is sustainable in the long term,” she said.

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