A dozen campaigners demonstrated outside Wokingham Borough Council’s (WBC) offices last week (Thursday, July 18) to demand more support for special educational needs children in the borough.

This comes after Ofsted found parents frequently reported several changes of social workers within ‘relatively short time frames’ had led to ‘slow progress’ in achieving positive outcomes for SEND (special educational needs and disabilties) children following a March inspection.

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Campaigner Ruth Rae said: “We are not satisfied with the council’s lack of action and lack of funding which has led to this intolerable situation, where the council are failing to meet their statutory duties to children with SEND, preventing the early interventions and support which can make a huge difference to their educational outcomes.

“It is not simply a question of more funding; we believe that the council have been very short-sighted in underestimating the demand in this area, and in making poor decisions about leadership and structure around SEND support.”

WBC Children’s services boss UllaKarin Clark defended the council’s SEND strategy when quizzed by some of the protesters at a meeting following the demonstration.

She told campaigners the council had experienced difficulty in recruiting SEND case managers and this had had an impact on producing statutory health plans, but that £230,000 extra had been allocated to spend on recruiting more staff.

Cllr Clark also strongly denied WBC was rejecting SEND provision as a cost-cutting measure, adding: “The council is committed to meeting its legal obligations and duties as laid down in the 2014 Childrens act.

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“Every effort is made to ensure that vulnerable children are provided with proper levels of help and support.

“Wokingham is not alone in experiencing very significant increases in the numbers of children and young people eligible for service.”

One campaigner asked WBC finance chief John Kaiser why the council was spending tens of thousands of pounds on its housing consultation instead of on SEND provisions.

Cllr Kaiser responded telling campaigners these issues were “not competing demands” and that where there are ‘demonstrable’ needs the council does all it can to ensure needs are met.

He added: “Children are an ongoing priority for the council and we will do all we can to ensure that children grow up happy and healthy.”

The Local Democracy Reporting Service understands Cllr Clark approached the campaigners asking for more feedback about the process involved in getting health plans for SEND children.

Ms Rae said those wanting to pass on their feedback can get in touch with the campaigners at sendmarchberkshire@gmail.com.

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The campaigner added: “Last week’s protest was the continuation of a struggle which will persist until our children are truly receiving the support they need.”