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Belfast Live
Belfast Live
Orlaith Clinton

Belfast parents meet EA over concerns around SEN provisions

Families met with the Education Authority this week to outline concerns they have surrounding Special Educational Needs (SEN) provision.

The Colin Autism Support Group attending a meeting on Tuesday in Belfast City Centre, alongside People Before Profit Councillor Michael Collins and Gerry Carroll MLA.

They outlined "several concerns" including delays in autism diagnosis and statements, a lack of special school places, and the cap on educational psychologist referrals.

Read more: Belfast youth centre facing 'callous and cruel' budget cut of almost 25%

And while it was described as a "constructive" conversation, Gerry Carroll said proposed cuts the Education budget could impact children with Special Educational Needs.

"The barriers that children with autism face won’t be overcome without proper resourcing,” Mr Carroll added.

"Officials hope to improve services through a new SEN transformation programme, but we have stressed that services cannot simply be reduced and repackaged. The Department of Education has warned that it may not be able to retain existing services in the face of Tory budget cuts.

"Neurodiverse young people are already being let down, but this situation will only worsen if the government does not ensure adequate funding to support them on their educational journey."

A spokesperson for the Education Authority (EA) told Belfast Live: "The Education Authority has been working closely with the Department of Education to assess the implications of the 2022-23 budget announcement. Whilst we welcome additional funding as part of the budget settlement, an EA funding gap for 2022/23 remains, with a potentially adverse impact on our schools and front-line services, including but not limited to Special Educational Need.

"These serious funding challenges facing education this year follow ten years of under investment in education and ever-increasing demand (i.e. increasing pupil numbers, proportionately the largest school population, and the lowest education spend per pupil in the UK ).

"The EA does not underestimate the difficulty in trying to achieve a balanced budget, both this year and next, nor the tough decisions that need to be made and the potential impact these may have on our children and young people and our schools.

"The EA will continue to work with DE and the wider education sector in carefully identifying and assessing a range of options to address the pressures faced, whilst trying to minimise the impact, particularly on the services we provide to our most vulnerable and disadvantaged children and young people.

"We fully acknowledge the continued efforts of school leaders to manage their schools’ budgets in very challenging circumstances and we are committed to working with them through this challenging period. The EA would be remiss in not taking this opportunity to highlight the need for sustainable funding for our education system. Clearly, this is critical to ensuring we can give all of our children and young people the best possible start in life.

"Any school facing financial difficulty should contact the EA, as funding authority for grant aided schools, in the normal way."


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