IF Theresa May and her Ministers are unwilling to listen to their opponents and teachers over draconian funding cuts to young people with special educational needs, perhaps they will take more notice of Shain Wells and Kerry Fox.
Who are they – and why do they matter? They’re mothers from Yorkshire who are endured in a prolonged – and protracted – struggle with officialdom to secure the right support for their children as they progress through school. Their respective challenges, and concerns, encapsulate the human toll of this issue.
First Mrs Wells. Her 10-year-old son Mitchell, who has autism, attends a primary school in Menston where a teaching assistant is dedicated to providing support. However the family’s fear is that such help will not be forthcoming when it makes the transition to secondary school in Bradford.
Why? Up to 35 posts are being lost as part of a cost-saving restructure. As Mrs Wells says herself, it is a false economy. “Children with disabilities become adults with disabilities,” she warns. “The more support they get as children, the less they need as adults. Cuts are a short-term solution.”
Yet, given the belief and expectation that children with special needs, can survive in mainstream schooling, the battle facing Mrs Fox from Beningbrough, near York, is just as disturbing. Her teenage son Alfie, who has cerebral palsy and epilepsy, in addition to speech and language difficulties, is one of the young people in North Yorkshire who face the prospect of having to pay for their own transport costs following the latest tranche of LEA savings.
Not only does this financially penalise those who have a disability, but the daunting prospect of using public transport might lead to such youngsters being reluctant to leave the confines of their home.
If Mrs May won’t listen to these two mothers, perhaps she’ll consider a third witness – common sense. These two heart-rending stories, faithfully reported by The Yorkshire Post today, are precisely the type of burning injustices that the Prime Minister has pledged to tackle. If she’s still on the side of the less fortunate, she will instruct her Ministers – and LEAs – to act now before even more families suffer unnecessary duress through no fault of their own.