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Don’t let Hackney Council cut the Early Support Team

This petition had 1,202 supporters

 Don’t let Hackney Council cut the Early Support Team

“Without the team, my son Martin would not be able to say ‘I love you’

I am the father of a disabled boy who lives in Stoke Newington and am urging the council to rethink plans to slash the borough’s early support team by 48 per cent. We need your help.

The Town Hall has been conducting a private consultation on the proposals, which it says are part of an overall cut of 20 per cent to the Hackney Learning Trust’s (HLT) inclusion service budget.

The cost-saving measures mean a number of Area Sencos (special educational needs co-ordinators) and highly trained specialist teachers face the axe.

My son, Martin, has Periventricular Leukomalacia (PVL), a condition that, among other many things, means he has difficulty speaking.

My four-year-old attends the Minihome nursery on Allen Road, where he receives expert help from Area Senco Olutoyin Henry and specialist teacher, Dianne Sandler. Their work is incredibly important.

They are like a bridge between us and the Trust. It has been a very difficult journey for us, but it would have been much more difficult without them.

When we heard about these cuts, we were worried not just about ourselves, but also for any new parents who will not have access to this amazing service in the future.

HLT’s early support team currently works with 248 children with complex needs, and reaches a further 400 kids across the borough who require extra guidance.

Getting help at an early age is vital, because our brains are much more malleable. It has really benefitted Martin to have that support so early, rather than waiting until he starts school.

And for us as parents, it is not just the practical things but the emotional support that we are so grateful for. Just knowing we are not alone is a massive boost.

We beg the council to reconsider its decision.

Here is an example of exactly the sort of help Martin receives. When my son’s difficulties with speaking became clear, Olutoyin began teaching him Makaton, a sign language originally developed for adults that now helps children with special needs express themselves through movement.

Before Makaton, Martin could not say anything. Now he can say things like ‘I love you’ by using his body. Without Olutoyin’s help, that would not have happened.

Billie Chan, who runs the Minihome nursery, has said: “I am very concerned about the proposed cuts to services for children with special needs in Hackney nursery settings.

“I worry in general that the lack of support, which I predict from this loss of Senco staff, will result in a reduction in capability in nurseries such as mine, and this will have a huge impact on children with special needs.

“If their needs are then not well met, this will have knock-on effects, not only for the child and their family, but for all the other children too, because the potential for disruptive behaviour may be increased.

“This might result in exclusion rather than inclusion and that is a real downward spiral.”


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