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

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

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

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“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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