Underfunded service

Underpaid, overworked and burnout staff

Steve Score, Leicester Socialist Party

Angry parents of children with special educational needs protested on 13 October because the Tory county council is failing to provide the school places their children need. The council admit that at least 150 children have been assessed, but do not have places.

But that is the tip of the iceberg, many more are waiting to get assessments and the ‘education and healthcare plans’ they need to get into the right schools.

I spoke to two parents.

Corinne Toseland: “We are at this protest today against the local authority, because they are failing our children with special needs. My little boy hasn’t been in school for six weeks.

“The whole term he’s just been forgotten. I’ve heard nothing back from the local authority.

“I went to the papers, and then people started to reach out to me. I realised it wasn’t just me, there other parents in this situation as well. So, amazingly, we have been able to create all this.”

Nicola Gough: “My situation is slightly different. My daughters do have school places, but not the support they need.

“My oldest daughter has been waiting three years to even see a paediatrician to get an assessment. My youngest daughter, who was diagnosed three years ago, is in mainstream school, but not able to access help.

“That school have already said that they can’t meet her needs. But, at the moment, I can’t even get an assessment to get her an Education, Health and Care Plan, which is what she would need for a specialist placement. But I know that even if she does get an assessment, the places are so few and far between that to get her one is going to be nearly impossible.”

Corinne: “I think they need accountability, and to take responsibility for their actions. They’re just ignoring us, and they’re making our children feel less valued. And, as a parent, it makes you feel helpless and a failure. It’s heartbreaking.”

Nicola: “In their own policies they say that every child deserves, and should get, an education, and that every child should be developed to their ability. They are failing on those counts. They need to turn that around.”

Corrine: “What’s behind it is funding. And because they’ve been getting away with it for so long, where they’ve not had to spend money, they’re not going to.

They say Leicestershire is underfunded compared to elsewhere, but everywhere is underfunded! We don’t have enough case workers, because it’s so overworked. There’s so much burnout, and the wages that they are paid aren’t enough. So, it is funding on every level.”

I spoke to the protest as co-chair of Save our NHS Leicestershire to say that cuts to local authorities and health services were having a devastating impact. As the previous chair of the Save Glenfield Children’s Heart Centre campaign, I know that a massive campaign can win victories – the heart unit has been saved. This battle with the council can be won too.