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(UK) Birmingham: Council faces $384M deficit; "effectively declaring itself bankrupt in September"

Feb 27, 2024, Yahoo News: Families fear cuts will affect children's support

Families whose children have special educational needs are concerned that Birmingham City Council’s multi-million pound budget cuts will leave them without support.

One mother said such families were already “on their knees” and struggled “to get the basics”.

The council is attempting to fill a £300m [$384M] budget shortfall over the next two years after effectively declaring itself bankrupt in September.

The authority has said changes to services are "inevitable", but it would prioritise those for the city’s most vulnerable residents.

'On their knees'

Draft budget documents published last week contained plans to cut £51m from children's services, among other savings.

Sylvia Stanway, whose son Alex has autism and ADHD, is worried about how the upcoming cuts will affect her family and others in similar situations.

Ms Stanway went through a long process to secure respite care last year, and she will soon be trying to secure longer residential care for Alex for when he turns 18.

“What you get is families that are on their knees,” she told BBC Midlands Today.

“They just end up constantly trying to get the basics which everybody else’s child gets naturally.”

It is not yet known which services for children will be cut. But one area that could be affected is free school transport for pupils over 16 with special educational needs.

Alternatives include a personal transport budget of 45p per mile or a bus pass.

Hayley Francey, who is a guardian for 15-year-old Conner, who has autism, said he would struggle to get on a bus by himself.

More than 120 doctors in Birmingham have now backed an open letter to the council urging them to reconsider.

The doctors said the plans would “severely handicap our ability to keep children safe and well”, at a time when child mental health referrals were rising.


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