Disabled trade unionists have unanimously backed calls for a national demonstration this autumn against cuts to support for disabled children and those with special educational needs.
Janine Booth, co-chair of the TUC disabled workers’ committee, who proposed the emergency motion, said the government was making “brutal cuts” to special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) funding.
Booth, whose motion was passed unanimously, was speaking at the TUC Disabled Workers’ Conference in Bournemouth, which was attended by disabled delegates from 22 unions.
Her motion said the cuts would have a “significant adverse effect” on the education and job prospects of disabled children, and on the resources available to education workers, and that these and other austerity cuts were “not an economic necessity but a political choice”.
Labour-run Waltham Forest council in London has announced 2.3 per cent cuts to high needs budgets, she said, with Labour-run Hackney council cutting high needs budgets by five per cent and SEND provision by another £5 million.
Booth said that cuts like these were forcing disabled children out of mainstream schools and into segregated special schools.
The government’s own figures show that the proportion of pupils with statements of special education needs or education, health and care plans who were attending state-funded, mainstream secondary schools plunged from 28.8 per cent in 2010, to just 22.2 per cent in 2017.
But Booth said there was “a fightback going on” and that it was important the demonstration took place “to stop a further round of cuts next year and reverse the cuts that have been made”.
She told fellow delegates: “It is very disappointing to me that a Labour council will go ahead with making the cuts even when local Labour bodies have told them not to.
“They talk about ‘difficult choices’, by which they mean which services to cut.
“I would like to hear less from councils about difficult choices and more about making the right choices, and the right choice is not to make the cuts to support for disabled children on their education.”
Mandy Hudson, from the National Education Union, said: “The fact that this government continues to cut SEND funding is another way to show its disdain for us as disabled citizens.