Anger as councillor says some children with Special Educational Needs are 'just badly behaved'

A parent carer group which represents around 1000 families in Warwickshire says councillors who made 'discriminatory' comments about children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and their parents should resign.

Ellie Costello from SEND Crisis Warwickshire said while parents welcomed statements made by the three councillors at the centre of an investigation about their comments in a Children and Young People's Overview and Scrutiny Committee, they are not satisfied with the apologies received.

Cllr Jeff Morgan, Cllr Brian Hammersley and Cllr Clare Golby have been criticised for the language they used in the meeting held at Warwickshire Council on 25 January.

Cllr Morgan, the former cabinet member for children and young people queried whether some SEND children 'were just really badly behaved' and 'needed a form of strict correction'.

Cllr Hammersley asked: "Was there something in the water?" and "Where were they all when I was at school?"

Cllr Clare Golby questioned: "What comes down to parenting and what comes down to SEND issues – how do we identify that and what pathways do we put people on that perhaps don’t have an SEND need but do have parenting skill shortages?"

All three councillors sent out apologies in a statement last night but Ms Costello said the parents getting in touch with her say it's not enough.

"I think it's important that they (the councillors) acknowledge that they are aware and understand why their language was harmful and that they acknowledge that in their apology. They need to actually acknowledge why they need to apologise. And in this case, it was the use of discriminatory language.

"It was very stigmatising. It was speaking in a very derogatory way about mothers and children. It's important to actually be specific in what you're apologising for. That's certainly how I invite an apology from my children when they have done something wrong.

"I was extremely alarmed that nobody in that chamber batted an eyelid when the comments were made which told me how common that type of conversation is.  It worries me that it's become habitual and there is a culture that that type of attitude is acceptable. And so for that reason, I don't think that those councillors should be holding a seat of office."

Last night Cllr Jeff Morgan wrote in his statement: "As a former Cabinet member and councillor of nine years I regret any offence caused by my choice of words. It was never my intention to offend and I regret the words I used to make a point about demand and need in the SEND area. I remain committed to the children and families of Warwickshire."

Councillor Brian Hammersley said: "I apologise unreservedly for the comments which I made at the recent Scrutiny Committee. I regret my clumsiness and lack of care in choosing my words and can see the upset and offence caused. I am terribly sorry and will be more thoughtful with my questions and words in the future. I can see that I have some learning to do."

Councillor Clare Golby said: "I accept that the words I used at the meeting were open to interpretation. I have spent many. years working hard to support children and families in the SEND community and it was never my intention to offend. I apologise for any offence caused."

Councillor Izzi Seccombe, the leader of Warwickshire County Council, said in a statement today that she wanted to offer reassurance that those views and language used were not representative of the council, its wider councillors and staff or their commitment to children and young people especially those with SEND.

The Chief Executive of the council Monica Fogarty emphasised that the matter was being taken extremely seriously and that time now needed to be allowed for an investigation to be completed.

She added: "So much good work has been done over recent years in collaboration with the SEND community and we remain determined to improve life opportunities for children and young people and deliver on our commitment to support children with SEND to thrive."

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