Mum makes plea to stop Whitehall cuts to East End’s special needs funding
PUBLISHED: 12:11 11 November 2019 | UPDATED: 11:24 14 November 2019
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Little Jacob Hopkins has cerebral palsy but the special needs council services his mum depends on is facing budget cuts.
Now campaigners are holding a public protest meeting in Bethnal Green to stop Whitehall reducing its cash allocation to local authorities for youngsters with disabilities like Jacob.
"We were coming to terms with his severe cerebral palsy," his mum Michelle said.
"The support services from Tower Hamlets were crucial and the visual impairment team have become a huge support to us as a family when times are tough."
Tower Hamlets councillor Danny Hassell, cabinet member for children's services, is among speakers on November 19 who include trade union leaders at the meeting being held by the National Education Union at Oaklands School.
Around 8,000 youngsters have been identified by Tower Hamlets Council as having special needs because of physical disabilities, mental health, sensory impairment or behaviour problems, which depends on Whitehall funding.
The government has offered a one-off £7 million payment to Tower Hamlets, it has emerged.
But critics claim it's a "short-term gesture" that fails to secure the long-term future of special needs.
A proposed seven per cent reduction in "top up" school funding to support special needs will affect one-in-three children who have Education Health and Care plans, they point out. A 40pc cut for the council's learning service and its behaviour support team could also reduce the number of specialist teachers and training in schools.
The Education Union's Tower Hamlets secretary Alex Kenny, who is also speaking at the meeting, said: "The most vulnerable as usual will lose out. Parents have had to resort to court action to protect their children's rights to an appropriate education."
The union's general secretary Kevin Courtney joins the platform to answer questions from parents, teachers and others affected.
The Thursday meeting on November 21 at Oaklands School in Old Bethnal Green Road begins at 7pm.
The campaign by parents and teachers is also running an online petition.