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PRESS RELEASE: Campaigners to protest BCP council meeting where Safety Valve petition will be heard

BCP Town Hall, Bournemouth (20th February @ 1800)

PRESS RELEASE: Campaigners to protest BCP council meeting where
Safety Valve petition will be heard
By: Rachel Filmer  | 

**PRESS RELEASE**
**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE**

Campaigners to protest BCP council meeting where Safety Valve petition will be heard

BCP Town Hall, Bournemouth (20th February @ 1800)

BCP Alliance for Children & Schools, a local group of parents, teachers, and professionals, are once again protesting BCP’s entrance into the Department for Education’s (DfE) controversial Safety Valve programme. The protest precedes a critical council session where funding issues will be discussed.

Scheduled for 20th February, the council meeting will address pivotal concerns central to the BCPACS campaign. Adam Sofianos, a local advocate and parent of a child with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), will present the Safety Valve petition, the most signed petition in BCP's history.

Labour councillors have proposed a motion to ensure a comprehensive debate and other safeguards on any Safety Valve agreement. BCPACS welcomes any and all cross-party support to avert an agreement that damages our services for no tangible benefit. Since their last protest, BCP Council have confirmed that a Safety Valve agreement would not address the existing higher needs deficit of £63m, and therefore would not prevent bankruptcy. Crucially, an agreement would provide no protection against the existing deficit or the length of the statutory override currently in place.

Information released by Moordown councillor Joe Salmon on X (formerly Twitter) on 16th February 2024 shows that BCP Council’s monitoring officer has written to all councillors to advise that anyone with a personal connection to someone with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) will not be allowed to participate in the debate or vote on this issue without a discretionary dispensation. BCPACS believes that this criteria is being selectively applied, given the wide-reaching impact of a Safety Valve agreement.

The meeting's agenda also encompasses budget discussions, including funding formulas for schools and proposed cuts to Children's and Adult Services. These cuts, including reductions in provisions like day centres for disabled adults, disproportionately impact those with protected characteristics and additional vulnerabilities.

Rachel Filmer, founder of BCP Alliance for Children & Schools and a local SEND parent, expressed her concerns: "It feels as though the entire support structure for the most vulnerable members of our society is disintegrating. Councillors must be made aware that these decisions have significant adverse consequences for families, and significant cost implications for the council longer term. Those affected already have poorer outcomes than others, and these changes would widen the gap. Our campaign started with Safety Valve, but we can see there may be many related battles ahead."

Since their last protest, BCPACS have met with Graham Farrant (BCP Chief Executive), Cathi Hadley (Corporate Director of Children’s Services), Richard Burton (Portfolio Holder for Children & Young People) and various other councillors from across BCP.

At their meeting, Graham Farrant stated that consultation and equality impact assessments would be carried out before any agreement is signed. He also stated that any agreement would only be signed after consideration by the full council, and BCP will not sign an agreement that prevents them from meeting their statutory duties to children with SEND. However, BCPACS are not reassured that the 15-year plan would address the concerns of residents. BCP’s statutory duties are not being met currently, and the group believes that the 15-year Safety Valve plan would make this significantly worse. The 15-year plan is not a safe option: the risks listed include inability to meet targets, increased appeals and judicial review, which only occur where local authorities fail to meet their legislative and statutory duties.

BCPACS aims to demonstrate the strong public sentiment against these plans, and to reiterate the need for guarantees that statutory duties and public sector equality duties are met.

It is vital that councillors understand that these changes will have profound effects on real families, many of whom are already experiencing unimaginable hardships. Rachel Filmer reiterated the group's commitment to upholding the legal rights of children with SEND: "Parental demands and expectations are often blamed for cost increases within the system but we do not have demands - our children have needs, and legal rights. This is not semantics. Whatever issues the council face regarding funding, we must continue to fight for the legal rights of our children."

Details:
- Date and time: 20th February, 6pm
- Meeting Place: BCP Civic Centre (Town Hall), Bourne Avenue, Bournemouth BH26DY
- For further details on the protest, visit www.bcpacs.uk
- More information on Safety Valve is available on our website: www.bcpacs.uk/faqs

About:
BCP Alliance for Children & Schools is a collective of parents, educators and other professionals who are working together to tackle the deterioration of SEND provision and the schools funding crisis. Many members have disabled children and have fought non-stop for their children’s legal right to education. We believe that the Safety Valve proposal will adversely affect every child and school in BCP and will not avert bankruptcy.