Southend Council apologises to mum over officer’s SEND comments

A probe is under way after “unacceptable” comments were sent to a Southend mum regarding her bid to get her child special educational needs support.

The comments were made by a Southend City Council officer who mistakenly copied the parent into an email discussing the case with a colleague.

It is understood the mum has been in discussions with officers about placing her child on an Educational Health Care Plan.

In the email, the officer wrote: “I have no idea what she is talking about. This case is getting more and more ridiculous.”

Further derogatory remarks were said to have been made.

Southend Council has apologised to the mum and says staff will be undergoing training to improve conduct.

The chairman of trustees for SEND The Right Message, a campaign and support group for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), has raised concerns about the attitude of officers in an open letter to the council.

Vicki Lamb wrote: “What strikes me quite viscerally about the comments that were made in that email, is the flippancy with which a vulnerable child and their parent were discussed by the professional who was charged with implementing their care and support.

“This speaks to an institutional culture within Southend, where disabled children and informed, empowered parents are dehumanised and viewed as a mere inconvenience.”

Laurie Burton, Southend councillor responsible for children and learning, said: “I have spoken directly with the parent concerned and reiterate an unreserved apology for what happened, which was totally unacceptable and falls far below the standard expected of officers working in SEND.

“Whilst we will be investigating further, additional training is going to be arranged for SEND staff on how to conduct appropriate and professional conversations with parents and carers.

“We value the input of our parent forums, including SEND the Right Message and sincerely hope we can continue to work with them to improve services for children and young people with SEND in Southend.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter