DR UK responds to ableist Warwickshire Councillor comments

Mon,4 March 2024
News Education

Disability Rights UK has sent a letter with SEND Crisis Warwickshire, and 12 other disability and education organisations, to the leader of Warwickshire County Council after three councillors made ableist comments regarding children identified as having Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).

Parents, Disabled young people, and campaigners have been calling on Warwickshire County Councillors Morgan, Golby, and Hammersley to resign since videos of their contributions in a meeting on the 25th of January gained a lot of attention online. 

The Councillor's comments ranged from blaming social media use and “parenting skill shortages” as the cause of neurodevelopmental impairments such as ADHD, dismissing the existence of such impairments, and claiming that children with said impairments are “just really badly behaved” and “need some form of strict correction.”

Most concerningly, Councillor Hammersley seemed to advocate for the exclusion – or even institutionalisation – of Disabled and neurodivergent children when he claimed that we should go back to historic ways of “dealing with them”. He has since claimed that this was not what he meant. 

The BBC has reported that Warwickshire County Council "acknowledges the scale of the upset" and all three Councillors have released apologies - including Councillor Golby's apology that her comments "were open to interpretation".

While Disability Rights UK fully supports SEND Crisis Warwickshire's ongoing complaint to the council on the matter, the fact that any councillors felt emboldened to share such ableist and harmful comments speaks more critically to the culture around SEND provision - not just at Warwickshire but nationwide. A culture which shames parents and children, delivers no accountability, and consistently fails to follow the law. 

The comments made by Councillors also highlighted a lack of awareness and understanding of the reality that parents and Disabled young people face when trying to access support in a system that's built to gatekeep and delay. Suggesting that diagnoses and support are handed out to families after “automatically accepting the plea of a mother”, when evidence shows that less than 4% of Disabled children have access to an EHCP, and wait times for Autism and ADHD assessments are up to 5 years, is ignorant and unacceptable. 

Bethany Bale, DR UK Education Policy and Campaigns Officer, said:

"The comments made by Warwickshire County Councillors are unacceptable. But what's most concerning is that they will in no way be an isolated event. The culture around SEND provision must be tackled, from policy making to delivery - and Central Government must urgently fill the over £3 billion shortfall needed so Councils can deliver on their legal obligations. 

Schools should be enabled to support everyone to reach their full potential, and Disabled young people shouldn't be shamed or excluded for the perceived level of resource that their support requires. The reality is that inclusion benefits everyone, not just Disabled pupils, and starving schools and education authorities of the resources they need lowers everybody's outcomes, aspirations and well-being. 

We can and should expect more of our education system, and ask that you join us in calling for more by supporting the Disabled People's Manifesto."

You can read the full letter sent to Warwickshire County Council below, co-signed by the following organisations: 

Birmingham Disability Resource Centre - Louise Mckiernan, Chief Executive and Chair of the West Midlands Regional Stakeholder Network

Council for Disabled Children Amanda Allard

Contact – Imogen Steele

Disabled Children’s Partnership – Stephen Kingdom, Campaign Manager

EOTAS Matters - Heidi Mavir, Founder

Gesher School - Ali Durban, Co-Founder

Kids - Katie Ghose, Chief Executive

Let Us Learn Too - Hayley Harding, Founder

The National Autistic Society - Caroline Stevens, Chief Executive

Not Fine in School - Dr Beth Bodycote, Founder

SEND Action - Gillian Doherty, Co-Founder

SEND National Crisis - Roanna Brewer, Co-ordinator

Square Peg - Ellie CostelloExecutive Director   

Special Needs Jungle Ltd - Tania Tirraoro, Co-Director


If you'd like to support this letter, you can support the Disabled People's Manifesto - which calls on the Government to increase SEND funding - by signing our petition, writing to your MP and sharing your support on social media.  You can also sign parent Melvyna Hawes' petition which demands the resignation of the three Councillors and a commitment from the Government to prioritise SEND funding. 



PDF icon DR UK and SEND Crisis Warwickshire Letter to Warwickshire County Council