OXFORDSHIRE County Council insists staff ‘don’t recognise’ a councillor’s allegation that parents pushing for special education needs services have been presented with the idea of giving up their children.

The claim was made by councillor Sally Povolotsky while the council was discussing a motion related to Oxfordshire’s special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) problems. 

Parents and carers led a protest outside County Hall last month to highlight issues with accessing services.

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The council published a statement which referred to nationwide issues, including forecasts that Oxfordshire will have a £47.3 million SEND deficit by March 2023, but protestors criticised the council’s approach as much as the level of provision. 

One parent who addressed the council meeting on November 1 claimed ‘they block, deny and ignore us’ while ‘cherry-picking evidence’. Another described “’months of non-engagement’ from the council’s SEND department. 

The county’s cabinet member for children, education and young people’s services Councillor Liz Brighouse OBE committed to looking into each of those allegations while also highlighting funding pressures and that the county’s waiting list for education, health and care plans (EHCPs) had been brought down. 

However, Ms Povolotsky has now come forward with a fresh and damning allegation. 

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“At a recent SEND debrief last week, we were informed by senior members of this portfolio that they are the professionals. Well, one role of being a professional is knowing when to listen,” she said.

“One parent last week appeared to hear a bare-faced intimidation tactic where one member of the protest group was advised by this council’s SEND department that her disabled child would need to become a looked-after child in order to secure funding for much-needed residential placements. 

“Another parent, who previously received this advice, was immediately able to correct this as misinformation and share her own solicitor’s legal advice on the issue that assured the parent in question that it was not the only route available to them.

“What kind of council suggests to parents they give up their children so that we can put them in a different budget to fund their care?”

A statement from Oxfordshire County Council read: “We don’t recognise the circumstances Cllr Povolotsky described and we will be seeking to discuss our services for children and young people with her at the soonest opportunity.” 

Earlier in her address, Ms Povolotsky had urged councillors on all sides to 'suck up the politics and place people at the heart of all of this'.

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She also said she was 'utterly disappointed' in interim chief executive Stephen Chandler, corporate director for children’s services Kevin Gordon and Ms Brighouse, alleging they had 'refused' a meeting to discuss the issues raised by protestors.