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SEND Action Rutland campaigns for Rutland County Council to help children

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Two mothers of children with special educational needs (SEND) are calling on the council to do more.

SEND Action Rutland (SAR), set up by Antonia Garnett-Clarke and Tree Gillions, is the regional branch of SEND Action UK, the national campaign group which represents the views of young people with disabilities.

In a letter to Rutland County Councillor Paul Ainsley (Ind - non aligned), chairman of the children’s services scrutiny committee, and the committee members, the two mothers explained the ‘SEND crisis’ within the community.

Milo and Willow Gillions
Milo and Willow Gillions

It read: “An overall dismissive attitude towards parents appears to purvey at Rutland County Council. This is made apparent by an almost combative approach to the request for services for children with SEND.”

They added that families in the county are ‘afraid to speak out’ against the council.

Rutland County Council’s children’s services was last inspected by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission in July 2017. As a result of that inspection, the service was identified as needing improvement.

Antonia and Jordan Garnett-Clarke with their children Charlie, Lucy, Isobelle, Ollie, Eddie and Andrew
Antonia and Jordan Garnett-Clarke with their children Charlie, Lucy, Isobelle, Ollie, Eddie and Andrew

Antonia and Tree believe the next rating will ‘undoubtably be of similar ilk, if not worse’.

Concerned about this, the pair recently conducted their own survey.

Out of the 62 parents and carers surveyed the lack of communication was highlighted, with more than 62 per cent under the impression they are not listened to by Rutland County Council.

‘Integral issues with the mechanics of the education, health and care plan process’ were also highlighted, with issues such as the local authority not adhering to timeframes, using ‘cut and paste’ to write individual plans and using inadequate evidence to write plans.

A key issue the group wants to raise with the council is a ‘desperate need of a purpose-built specialist provision’ for children with SEND in Rutland.

Milo and Tree Gillions
Milo and Tree Gillions

In the letter, they said: “Rutland only has provision for mild to moderate learning disabilities, in the form of specialist units such as the designated specialist provision classroom at Oakham CE School and the enhanced resource provision at Uppingham Community College, with limited places at these facilities.

“Children with severe or profound and multiple learning disabilities will still have to travel out of county, often for over 45 minutes, more than the recommended travel time for children.

“Rutland spends a large amount of £900,000 of the high needs budget on transporting children out of county to specialist provisions. This would be significantly reduced by allowing Rutland to have a specialist school.”

The open letter, which has been signed by a number of other parents in the county, is set to be discussed at the council’s upcoming children’s scrutiny committee meeting on Thursday (April 21).

Rutland County Council disputed the pair’s claims saying it ‘takes its obligations towards children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and their families extremely seriously’.

A spokesperson for the council said: “Rutland’s last children’s SEND Ofsted/CQC inspection in July 2017 highlighted a range of good practice, along with some recommendations for improvement which have all since been implemented. In the period following this inspection, the council has also welcomed two independent peer reviews which raised no concerns about Children’s SEND services.

“Rutland is one of only a few local authorities in our region where its most recent SEND inspection resulted in no written statements of action.”

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