This is my proposing speech for TUC Disabled Workers’ Committee’s emergency motion calling for action to stop cuts to funding for kids with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. Several trade unions’ delegates spoke in support of the motion, which was passed unanimously.
Conference, I am going to tell you:
- what is happening
- why this is an issue for us and our movement
- what we propose to do about it
The Tory government is making brutal cuts to funding for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).
- This impacts across the country, but I will tell you a bit about what is happening in London.
- In the last five years, the number of kids with Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) has risen by 10%; the actual cost of funding them has risen by 16%; and yet government funding has risen by just 2%.
- Waltham Forest Council has cut its high-needs budget for mainstream schools by 2.3%.
- Hackney Council, where I live, has cut its high-needs budget for mainstream schools by 5%, and plans a further £5m cuts to SEND provision.
- As a result, disabled kids are being forced out of mainstream schools and into segregated special schools.
- Even pre-school SEND funding is being cut.
Why is this an issue for us as disabled trade unionists?
- Firstly, because these are our children: my son, your kids, your friends’ and workmates’ kids.
- Secondly, because these kids are the disabled workers and trade unionists of the future.
- Thirdly, because this was many of us in the past, when we were at school, with special needs which may or may not have been met.
- Fourthly, because this impacts on education workers as well as on school students – teachers, support staff and others, whose working life is made more difficult by, and whose jobs are under threat from, these cuts.
- And fifthly, basic solidarity: an injury to one is an injury to all. An injury to disabled children is an issue for our whole movement.
The good news is that there is a fightback.
- I mentioned my son earlier – he has set up a campaign called Take the Stress Out of Studying, which would welcome your support.
- In Waltham Forest yesterday evening, campaigners protested at the Town Hall.
- In Hackney, hundreds have protested and thousands responded ‘strongly disagree’ to the council’s consultation on the cuts.
- Also in Hackney, both Constituency Labour Parties passed resolutions calling on the council not to carry out these cuts. Because unfortunately, both the councils I have mentioned are Labour councils.
- Labour councils seem reluctant to refuse to make these cuts, and councillors often talk about ‘tough choices’ – a phrase that is really beginning to push my buttons! – meaning the choice about which services to cut.
- Real ‘tough choices’ are what faces a family when their disabled kids’ support is cut and they leave school without qualifications; or they refuse to go to school; or they become mentally unwell; or they go ‘off the rails’ and get in trouble. Then they have the ‘tough choices’ between special school and unsupported mainstream school; between paying for support or paying the rent.
- So I would like to hear less about ‘tough choices’ and more about making the right choice – to not cut provision to our disabled kids.
- These cuts are being carried out by councils but they start with the government.
- So this motion calls for a national demonstration against SEND cuts this autumn.
- It is very important that we vote for this, but more important that we make it happen. It is easy to put your hand up and vote for a motion, but much more important to take action.
Please vote for this motion and stop the cuts to support for disabled children.