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(UK) Bristol: "Fixing entire system for people with autism will take years"

July 26, 2021, BristolLive: Heartfelt plea for 'justice' for Bristol children with special needs

A councillor has made a heartfelt call for “justice” for Bristol children with special needs, saying those who let them down ought to be punished. Newly elected Labour member Kerry Bailes, who has a son with special educational needs, came close to tears as she made the call at a public meeting this month where city officials said they plan to fix the city’s broken system for children and adults with autism and learning difficulties. The officers were responding to two major recent reports highlighting failures in two important parts of the system: ‘alternative’ education for children who struggle in mainstream schools, and institutions that are supposed to look after people with autism and learning difficulties. Both reviews were commissioned by Bristol City Council in the wake of a joint watchdog finding from 2019 that children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in the city receive “disturbingly poor“ care. The council is planning system-wide change, and has already started work to improve SEND services, but fixing the entire system for people with autism and learning disabilities will take years to achieve, members of the people scrutiny commission heard on Monday, July 19. Cllr Bailes, who has had to fight to get SEND support for her son and has been home-schooling him for the past three years, said she has seen no improvements in the service over the past four years. “It’s still very much a ‘do-as-you’re-told-or-else’ system,” she said. “My son was thrown into a car park at five years old. He was locked in an office for being autistic…. “In general, the issues that you’ve raised are the issues that we want to address.” Cllr Bailes asked who would be held accountable if the council fails to deliver on its plans to fix the system - including a promise to build hundreds more special school places over the next few years - and called for an apology for the failures of the past. She said: “It feels like we’re continually being asked to draw a line in the sand and forget what’s happened previously because all of this amazing stuff’s going to happen, and I don’t think that’s fair on us as parents and that’s not fair on our children. “The council has messed up big time, messed [up] our children’s lives. We should get some kind of apology and I’m not hearing it.”… Cllr Tim Rippington, who also has a child with special needs, said: “I’m actually really pleased to see these reports coming here today, because it seems to me, for the first time, we’re starting to get a bit of a joined-up approach to all this. We’re starting to join the dots up.” The problems have been going on for a “very long time”, he added….


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