Fewer specialist posts to go after review of learning support services in Brighton and Hove

Posted On 07 Mar 2016 at 7:17 pm

Four fewer specialist jobs will be lost after a review of learning support services in Brighton and Hove.

Green councillor Alex Phillips said that it was a triumph for democracy, adding that more than 10,000 people had signed a petition opposing the proposed changes.

Councillor Phillips said that their voice had been heard, spurring Brighton and Hove City Council to review its original proposals.

The revised proposals were presented to the council’s Children, Young People and Skills Committee at the Friends’ Meeting House this afternoon (Monday 7 March).

They affect the support given to children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and children with social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs.

Councillor Alex Phillips

Councillor Alex Phillips

Three jobs will be lost from 21 specialist posts, rather than the seven job losses that were initially proposed.

Councillor Tom Bewick, the Labour chairman of the committee, said that an unprecedented number of people had signed the petition. He agreed: “It was a good example of democracy in action.”

He said: “It went well beyond this city, with even people in Australia signing it.”

And the council’s willingness to ask an independent assessor to review the proposals showed that it was prepared to listen, he said.

The consultation didn’t get off to the best possible start, he said, adding: “People said it was a done deal but the council has been prepared to move quite considerably. There will be no compulsory redundancies.

“Agreement has been reached to protect the terms and conditions of qualified teachers. That was a concern.”

He said that the new integrated learning support service would keep the same level of frontline support for children with sensory needs.

Councillor Tom Bewick

Councillor Tom Bewick

He added: “We have also committed to ensure there is adequate professional leadership for this specialist area.”

It was the management that would be integrated and streamlined, the committee was told.

Councillor Vanessa Brown, for the Conservatives, said: “We were glad that the consultation period was extended … because of the concerns raised by staff and users.

“This is an area that needed to be looked at because our costs are higher than the national average.”

But, she said, the outcomes were not better than average, adding that those needing help would benefit from bringing all the services under one roof. She added: “We wish the restructured service well.”

Her Conservative colleague Andrew Wealls said: “We are heading to a much better place than we are now. This has taken a long time but it’s been important to get it right.”

Councillor Wealls asked for a follow up report in, say, six months’ time to see whether the changes were working.

Councillor Andrew Wealls

Councillor Andrew Wealls

Labour councillor Mo Marsh said: “Given the money we spend, we need to ask why we haven’t got the outcomes we would like.”

The council’s assistant director of children’s services Regan Delf said: “This is obviously a process that evoked really strong feelings.

“The local authority really values the support services that we have.

“We’re very high spenders. We spend about 70 per cent more than our statistical neighbours but we can’t always see that in the outcomes.”

She said that the figures for children and young people “not in employment, education or training” – knowns as NEETs – were not good when it came to children with special educational needs.

And, she added, “for children with SEMH the figures are quite distressing”.

She said: “It’s our legal duty to keep looking at the local offer and our moral duty.

“The original principle of having an integrated service was widely supported. The painful issues really surrounded capacity … We do listen.”

She said that, given the vacancies in the service, there was no need for compulsory redundancies.

Money was being from management, she said, adding: “We need good management but we’re trying to take money from back office and support functions.”

We have families struggling all year, she said, which was why the changes were aimed at trying to ensure that families were supported all year, not just in term time.

Councillor Bewick said that the test of the changes would be whether they led to “modernised integrated better services for children with special educational needs and disabilities”.

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