Three councillors have apologised for comments made about children with special educational needs. 

At the children and young people overview and scrutiny committee held on Thursday, January 25, councillors Jeff Morgan, Brian Hammersley and Clare Golby made comments about the rising costs of SEND provision.

Councillor Jeff Morgan suggested children could need "some form of strict correction" and rather than having ADHD, a child might just be “really badly behaved.” 

Councillor Brian Hammersley asked: "Does anyone know why this is increasing rapidly? Is it something in the water?" 

Redditch Advertiser: Councillor Jeff Morgan Councillor Jeff Morgan (Image: Warwickshire County Council webcast)

The meeting was part of a Warwickshire County Council discussion surrounding SEND and the spiralling expense of council support.

Council officers presented a SEND analysis to highlight the challenges faced and work being done on projects to address a shortfall that is predicated to be £17.5 million for the financial year 2023/2024 alone.

There are more than 15,000 children and young people with SEND in Warwickshire’s state-funded schools with almost 12,000 supported through funding allocated directly to schools.

The remaining 3,632 have an education, health and care plan (EHCP) with their additional needs funded through the high needs block, which is a pot of money allocated to the council by the government.

ECHPs cover needs from birth or the point needs are identified to the age of 25 and there are now just shy of 6,000 young people in Warwickshire receiving help – an increase of 37 per cent over the past five years.

Councillor Clare Golby questioned whether the 37 per cent rise had been due to societal factors such as social media where "families are swapping tips on how to get their children diagnosed". 

Redditch Advertiser: Councillor Clare Golby Councillor Clare Golby (Image: Warwickshire County Council webcast)

Warwickshire County Council and the three councillors involved have now issued an apology over the comments. 

Councillor Jeff Morgan said: "As a former cabinet member and councillor of nine years, I regret any offence caused by my choice of words. It was never my intention to offend and I regret the words I used to make a point about demand and need in the SEND area. 

"I remain committed to the children and families of Warwickshire." 

Councillor Brian Hammersley said: "I apologise unreservedly for the comments which I made at the recent Scrutiny Committee. I regret my clumsiness and lack of care in choosing my words and can see the upset and offence they caused. 

"I am terribly sorry and will be more thoughtful with my questions and words in future. I can see that I have some learning to do."

Councillor Clare Golby said: "I accept that the words I used at the meeting were open to interpretation. I have spent many years working hard to support children and families in the SEND community and it was never my intention to offend. I apologise for any offence caused." 

The council is now investigating complaints about the comments and has made it clear that they were not representative of the views of the wider council body.

A spokesperson for Warwickshire County Council added: "It is clear that these comments have caused significant offence, distress and upset to children and their families within the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) community.  The Council takes that very seriously. 

"The Chief Executive has emphasised the importance of the investigation for which the findings and outcomes will be communicated as soon as it is complete.  This matter is being prioritised."