Parent forum for children with SEN needs forced to close as cash is axed without warning

The NSPC had to suspend its services, as it lost its funding.

The NSPC had to suspend its services, as it lost its funding. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A forum for parents whose children have special education needs (SEN) has been forced to suspend its work after its funding was cut by North Somerset Council without warning.

Guy Kingston of North Somerset Parent Carers.

Guy Kingston of North Somerset Parent Carers. - Credit: Archant

North Somerset Parent Carers (NSPC) forum shares parent feedback on the services offered to some of the authority’s most vulnerable children.

Its £5,000 council funding has been axed, although the forum did not find out until months after the decision was taken.

The NSPC also received a £15,000 Government grant, but the council decided not to approve it this year, leaving the forum without the money it needs to keep going.

The forum has made a formal complaint against the council.

The news comes at a time when North Somerset parents have told the Times about the difficulties they have in accessing services for their children.

Parents said it was a constant ‘battle’ to have their children diagnosed, and then for them to get the support they need. They said their stress never came from their children – but from the lack of provision.

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A council spokesman said: “We have worked really hard to continue the positive relationship we have developed over many years with the NSPC, and we are saddened this is now proving difficult.”

The spokesman acknowledged the council should have notified NSPC it would not receive council funding, and confirmed the authority will not fund any additional participation groups this year.

NSPC chairman Guy Kingston said he believes the dispute with the council stretches back to November 2016 when the forum criticised Weston Area Health Trust (WAHT) continuing to run community health services, where he said children experienced excessive waits and inadequate provision.

He believes the comments resulted in the council offering the forum a code of conduct to sign, which Mr Kingston said would have effectively gagged members from speaking to the press.

He said: “We know we are being silenced because we were highly critical of WAHT. We know how services could be improved and money could be saved.”

The council has offered to take part in mediation with the forum.