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Council asked to help cut ‘unacceptable’ special educational needs statement delays

Notice of motion asking ABC Council to intervene to be debate on Tuesday

Schools

A notice of motion calling on the ABC council to intervene to help speed up the process of issuing statements of special educational needs is to be debated tonight (Tuesday).

The motion will be proposed by Sinn Fein Councillor Liam Mackle and seconded by his colleague, Councillor Maire Cairns.

It will go before the monthly meeting of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council for consideration.

And, if successful, it would see the council chief executive Roger Wilson writing to both the Education Authority and Department of Health to remind them of their responsibilities.

If advocates the need for adequate funding to be made available for special educational schools.

The motion argues that the “majority” of statements of special educational need are not being completed within the required time and this is something which must be rectified.

The motion reads: “This council recognises that access to a good education is essential for children to reach their full potential. It is vital that all children including those with special education needs have access to appropriate education provision and support without delay.

“It is essential that schools continue to have access to appropriate funding in order to provide support for children through school-based assistance to meet their special educational needs.

“Some children however will require additional provision to be made in a statement of special educational needs.

“The assessment and issuing of a statement for these children should take place within a statutory timeframe of 26 weeks.

“Currently the majority of statements are completed outside of the statutory timeframe which can result in unacceptable delays in children’s needs being met.

“This council has a duty under the Children’s Co-Operation Act 2015 to co-operate to improve the well-being of children when exercising functions.

“The chief executive will write to the Education Authority and the Department of Health, reminding them of their duties to co-operate under the Act and calling on them to identify and address those barriers which result in statements being completed outside the statutory timeframe and to bring this practice to an end.”

A damning report by the Northern Ireland Audit Office last summer showed that only one in five statements of special educational need had been completed within the statutory timeframe the previous year.

It is a figure which campaigners and supporters say has not improved and the motion will seek to bring pressure to bear to ensure that those tasked with the role fulfil their obligations.

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