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Council re-hires redundant schools staff as consultants

Council re-hires redundant schools staff as consultants

🕔08.Jan 2013

Fifteen psychiatrists and support staff took early retirement a year ago as part of an £800,000 cost- cutting exercise in the Children, Young People and Families (CYPF) directorate.But the pressure of dealing with a huge backlog in writing statements for youngsters with special educational needs (SEN) saw council bosses turn to their former colleagues for help.

The psychiatrists now work for Services for Education – a spin-off private company consisting of former city council schools staff.

Chris Atkinson, assistant director at CYPF, told the education scrutiny committee that she did not believe the psychiatrists were being paid more now than was the case when they worked for the council. “They certainly should not be,” she added, before promising to investigate further.

It emerged last week that the council was meeting statutory deadlines for writing SEN statements in only 24 per cent of cases. Ms Atkinson said problems had been caused by a sharp increase in the number of parents insisting on statements for their children.

The decision to make 15 staff redundant was based on the council processing 800 statements a year. The latest projections suggest a figure of 1,000.

Ms Atkinson added: “It was difficult to judge how many staff to lose and we have had additional demand for schools. There is more work than the current staff can do and the way we are managing it is to buy services through Services for Education.”

She added that the backlog in writing SEN statements had been eradicated and that all applications received since April 2012 were dealt with within the statutory deadline of 26 weeks.

The council will shortly publish a draft strategy for special educational needs, setting out how Birmingham intends to cope with the steadily increasing number of SEN children and the soaring cost of the service.

Papers circulated by officers suggest that the number of children with statements, indicating the most severe needs, will remain stable over the next eight years even though the number of SEN children will continue to grow from the current figure of almost 36,000.

The figures have been interpreted by the scrutiny committee as an admission that more children with severe special needs will be denied a statement and educated in mainstream schools.

Education scrutiny committee chairman Cllr Anita Ward said she wanted to commission a report from independent experts looking at the options for special needs strategy.

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