Fighting for special needs education

March 04 2020
Fighting for special needs education

Bristol West MP Thangam Debbonaire writes for the Voice

IT’S been a busy month. I’ve nearly caught up on post-election tasks, from the two months when I was not an MP, delaying some responses. In Parliament, the EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill passed, I led for the Opposition on this, and spoke in Parliament on many other matters.

I spoke in Labour’s Opposition Day debate on policing and crime. Additional money promised for Avon and Somerset Police will mean 403 new officers over three years; the force has lost 700 officers since 2010. There have been tragic consequences of the cuts over the last ten years, such as an increase in knife crime in Bristol. We need police cuts to be reversed but also more money to reverse cuts to other services, such as youth work, mental health, and domestic violence protection.

Every child and young person in Bristol has the right to a good education. For many months, reflecting your views and experiences, I’ve focused particularly on support for Special Education Needs and Disabilities. I am looking closely at Bristol City Council’s improvement plans to address the weaknesses in the current SEND programme, including the Education Health and Care Plans. As a priority, I want to work with parents and carers to regain confidence in the SEND system in Bristol.

The Withdrawal Agreement Bill came back from the House of Lords, including amendments I proposed on child refugees and EU citizens in my role as Shadow Europe Minister. I defended these amendments again in the Commons, but sadly the government voted them down. I will carry on scrutinising the government throughout the process of negotiating the future relationship, pushing for the closest possible relationship with the EU. I’ve asked the government how many EU Citizens who have applied for settled status have been given the less secure pre-settled status. I still haven’t been given an answer and am worried that those who have the legal right to be here aren’t being treated properly. This process should be seamless. I urge every EU citizen to apply as soon as possible and let me know of any problems.

I was outraged that journalists from some national newspapers and news sites were denied access to a briefing from Number 10 on the future relationship with the EU. Accountable political journalism is more important than ever, particularly as the government have blocked Labour amendments to allow Parliament to scrutinise them. I will keep campaigning for freedom of the press, particularly as this seems to have become a worrying trademark of this government.

As always please do get in touch if there is something you want to know, or take up in Parliament, or if you need my help.