THE parents of a disabled child struggling to find a suitable nursery place say Wandsworth Council’s special education needs and disabilities (SEND) policy risks harming children’s development.
Despite reassurances that the closure of Siward Road Nursery in July would not affect SEND provisions, Louisa Lort-Phillips, who at two-and-a-half suffers from Cerebral Palsy, is now unable to find a full-time nursery place.
Her parents, Charlie and Milly, are now calling on the council to allow Greenmead School, the only nursery suitable to increase capacity for Louisa and four other children.
Charlie said: “When we discussed the closure of Siward Road with the council, we were told very specifically that no children would miss out.
“Here we are, further down the line, and Louisa doesn’t have a place because the funding hasn’t been made available.”
Charlie was concerned by comments made by the council’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Sarah McDermott, that inclusion was the council’s top priority.
He added: “Inclusion is a very noble aim for children who actually are able to be included, but for children who are at the more severe end of the disability spectrum it’s not necessarily the priority that works for them.
“A mainstream nursery is not a safe environment for Louisa and inclusion as a mantra that takes priority over everything else actually leads to exclusion for the children concerned.
“The council needs to recognise that providing the right places for children matters more than providing inclusion at all costs.”
A council spokesperson said: “Wandsworth has one of the best and most extensive networks of special needs provision in the whole country and we support children not just from our own borough, but from many other boroughs too, who have a wide range of disabilities and special educational needs.
“We are in constant and ongoing dialogue with these parents and are determined to work with them to support their daughter and ensure she receives the best possible care and support while she attends school.”
The council closed Siward Road after changes in government legislation capped the amount local authorities could use to fund SEND provisions from mainstream school budgets.
Wandsworth Labour’s spokesperson for Education and Children Services, Jeremy Ambache, said the council should have kept essential services such as Siward Road open using other funding sources.
The appeal comes as campaigners today launched a High Court challenge against how the government provides SEND funding to local authorities across the country.