A founder of a group which represents SEND parents has called out the council in response to the publication of their SEND services board minutes.

Hayley Harding, founder of Sutton EHCP Crisis, has slammed the council for potential plans to reduce services provided by Cognus Ltd.

Council owned company Cognus, provides 27 services to children, young people, families, schools and eduction providers. The company has recently undergone several changes such as governance, ownership, and renewal of contract.

Board minutes from the council owned company were recently sent to mother Hayley Harding after an FOI request from Sutton Council.

Hayley says parents were particularly disheartened by the minutes from September 09, 2020.

Your Local Guardian:

In the minutes, as seen by Sutton Guardian, it was indicated that the council will look at ceasing or reducing therapy at annual reviews.

Hayley slammed the council and said that they "poorly" redacted other parts of the minutes.

She says that she unredacted the minutes and found that around 200 SEND children's educational health care plans that could be ceased by the end of the year.

She also said that the finance report audited accounts showed a reported loss of £717k.

"It was really disheartening to read these minutes," said Hayley.

"What was loud and clear was the leadership at Sutton Council were mainly focused on saving money at all costs and not the vulnerable children they are meant to be looking after."

Your Local Guardian:

Following the publication of minutes, Sutton Council and Cognus issued a joint statement.

In the statement, both the council and Cognus said there are no targets to reduce children's educational health care plans and that suggestions relating to Cognus’s financial position are incorrect.

The statement also said that therapy services remain a valued and high priority service area and that clear communication with parents is an "ongoing priority".

The council also said that there was an issue with the redacted documents being reconstructed because of an administrative process.

A statement from Cognus said: “It is important to highlight that under increasing demand Cognus services have continued to deliver as uninterrupted as possible throughout Covid-19.

"The majority of Therapy Services were delivered by Cognus during the pandemic, and it remains a valued and high priority service area.

"Cognus in partnership with the Council, schools and settings are currently developing an updated model to provide even greater support for children and families, which will have parent and carer feedback at its very core.

“There are no targets to reduce EHCPs. A key part of preparation for adulthood is allowing a natural closing of an EHCP, which will often occur later in a child’s life, or may also be triggered for a number of other reasons, e.g. a child moving out of borough.

"All requests for ceasing EHCPs are dealt with on a case by case basis and are in line with Section 9 of the SEN Code of Practice from the DfE.

“Cognus staff will continue to work with the Council and partners to provide innovative and educationally enabling services for Sutton’s children, families and wider community.”

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A spokesperson from Sutton Council said: "An issue with redacted documents being reconstructed arose because of an administrative process that was only used on this occasion. Other FOIs released by the Council are unaffected by this.

"The Council continues to work with Cognus, Sutton Parents Carers Forum and partners to provide a range of channels for feedback from parents and carers from across the borough to be raised. The Council can confirm there are no targets around ceasing EHCPs.

"The Council can confirm there are no targets around ceasing EHCPs.

"Partnership working continues to explore new ways to provide better, more targeted support such as annual reviews, for children and families.

"As part of the ongoing commitment to providing better services and transparency, the Council and Cognus alongside SPCF will be providing further information sessions on key subjects.

"This ongoing commitment to provision of services, rooted in parent and child feedback, has been built on the legacy of the Independent Expert’s report from 2019/20, as well as positive feedback from Ofsted, the CQC and Vicky Ford MP."

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Authorities said that the Local Offer website, along with the council and Cognus’s will be updated with clear FAQs regarding parent and carer’s concerns in agreement with Sutton Parent Carers Forum to ensure communication continues across multiple channels.

In response to the joint statement, Hayley Harding added: "Its pretty extraordinary that despite these minutes being in black and white and signed off they are now trying to say that the information that they contain isn't true.

"Unfortunately, given the fight all parents of children with SEND here have to get their children the educational help that they need I think many will find this very hard to believe."