COMMENT: Children must be protected from cuts

The outcome of Hampshire County Council’s consultation on proposals to reduce educational support for thousands of disabled children and young adults already seems like a foregone conclusion. 

Proposed changes to the Specialist Teacher Advisory Service have angered parents and a leading charity, which has called them ‘completely unacceptable.’

 The service provides support in schools for children who have hearing or visual impairments, physical disabilities or speech, language and communication needs.

The changes could see fewer visits, reductions in trained staff, an increased workload for teachers and less continuity among the special teachers who still visit Hampshire schools.

Eva Jolly regional director of The National Deaf Children's Society urged the county council to rethink the proposed cuts.

The service is funded by central government and has an annual budget of £3.1m.

But the council faced a funding shortfall of £9.4 million in 2017/18, with a forecast of an £8.6m shortfall in 2018/19.

It hopes the cuts to the services will save it £708,000 annually – with savings of £193,000 already made through changes to management and administration.

But anything that affects the education of children, particularly those with special needs, should be avoided at all costs.

As Eva Jolly told The News: ‘Deaf children already face enough barriers in the classroom, the playground and their everyday lives. These proposals now risk causing more stress and uncertainty for more than 1,000 deaf children and their parents.

She added: ‘Hampshire County Council must act now to quash these proposals and show families across the region that it will deliver for deaf children and their families. Every child deserves the same chance in life and deaf children are no exception.’

The message from the consultation exercise will undoubtedly be that the county council must fin another way to balance its books.