Parents consider legal fight over SEND cuts

A banner highlighting the total cuts faced by schools in Waltham Forest

Report by James Cracknell

Parents of special needs children in the borough are preparing for a potential legal fight with Waltham Forest Council over cuts to education provision.

The long-running row over the council’s budget for special educational needs and disability (SEND) has seen parents become increasingly angry over the way they have been consulted. New proposals for cuts across all mainstream schools were condemned as “equally as bad” as a previously-rejected plan that would have affected some schools more than others.

The council has been trying to plug a £4.2million budget gap but says no decision has yet been made. More time is now being allowed for engagement with affected families and a final decision is expected in March.

Ken Barlow, whose son Dylan is autistic, told the Echo: “They have come back with a new proposal to save the same amount of money, this time affecting more children but not by as much. It is equally as bad. It would mean 10% being cut from children in mainstream schools who get funding.

“They did another consultation process – it is the third time they have done it. Each time they have screwed it up. They need to review the system but how can you make cuts when you don’t even know what the system is going to be?

“Our plan is to launch a legal action against the council. We have raised £3,000. We think the consultation hasn’t been meaningful without proper dialogue with parents. The legal challenge is about not putting all of the options to us.”

A council spokesperson said: “We have consulted extensively with stakeholders and are now delaying the decision date from January to March so we can continue that engagement. All responses and alternative proposals will be carefully considered.

“The council very much recognises that this remains a sensitive, complex and challenging issue. The number of pupils requiring support has risen significantly in Waltham Forest and the system is now unsustainable, based on the levels of funding allocated by government. We continue to lobby for more funding.”