Disabled children 'have to go home to use the toilet' due to school works backlog

Disabled children are having to go home to use the toilet and change because their schools lack necessary adaptations, East Riding councillors have heard.

East Riding Council’s full meeting heard it came to light after a bid calling for hygiene rooms and accessible toilets at schools disabled children attend was turned down. Liberal Democrat Coun Tom Astell, the council’s equality champion, said the affected children were being failed amid an £8m backlog in works in schools for 2024.

Conservative Children and Young People Portfolio Holder Coun Victoria Aitken said they were working to adapt schools where necessary but the authority was limited by financial constraints. The full council meeting earlier this month heard the £1m bid to the council’s Capital Board was rejected in June 2023.

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A council report stated the funding was rejected because it was felt that, given the schools were set to become academies, they should apply directly to the Government for funding. The report to the Children and Young People Sub-Committee stated the council receives £4m-a-year for works to schools, compared to its £8m backlog.

Conservative Howdenshire ward's Coun Victoria Aitken speaking at East Riding of Yorkshire Council's full councilConservative Howdenshire ward's Coun Victoria Aitken speaking at East Riding of Yorkshire Council's full council
Conservative Howdenshire ward's Coun Victoria Aitken speaking at East Riding of Yorkshire Council's full council

Parents and carers are free to name whatever school they wish for their child to attend, meaning some may not have facilities for them when the child arrives. A typical hygiene room for instance can cost around £60,000 and take about a year to complete.

Councillors heard four schools had recently had to adapt to accommodate disabled children. One child at a school needed a hygiene room after their needs changed while another had to use a side entrance to get into school.

A third child joined a school where there was no hygiene room but there was an accessible toilet, while a fourth needed a stairlift which has been installed. But the report from October stated there was one school without an accessible toilet though a child needed one and another without a hygiene room with a child starting shortly.

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It added the situation posed risks of legal challenges from families, inadequate findings in Ofsted inspections, stress for staff and rising home-to-school transport costs. Coun Astell said the issues affected a minority of children across the 103 schools maintained by the council.

But he added it was leading to their needs not being met and it was affecting their education. Coun Astell said: “There is currently one school which does not have a disabled toilet yet we have a child in attendance who requires one.

“There is another school that does not have a hygiene room but has a child starting shortly that will require one. We have children in our schools now who have to go home to use the toilet and change.

“The council’s current approach is to act retrospectively. This creates additional stress for children, parents and staff while funding is allocated, planning permission if necessary is sought and building work is carried out.”

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Coun Aitken said she supported efforts to address the concerns.

Coun Aitken said: “As Cabinet member for children’s services specifically, I would never deliberately prevent positive outcomes for children and young people. Getting those outcomes is my number one priority. All four schools recently affected have been addressed with the necessary adaptations.

“Unfortunately, we do have financial restrictions on being able to manage which is something I find exceptionally challenging. I cannot put every resource into every school just in case a child comes to that school who needs it but I don’t have an infinite pot of money.”