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Councillors make derogatory comments about disabled children

Jeff Morgan

Three conservative councillors could be losing their position after making ‘abhorrent’ remarks about disabled children.

A clip showing Warwickshire county councillors Brian Hammersley, Jeff Morgan [pictured top] and Clare Golby sharing their derogatory views has gone viral.

Mr Hammersley asked if the rise in disabled youngsters is because there is ‘something in the water’, Miss Golby wondered if it was connected to ‘a rise in social media use’, whilst  Mr Morgan quizzed if ‘little Willy’ was ‘badly behaved’ rather than living with ADHD.

The spiteful slurs have irritated a number of families with disabled children who have launched a campaign for the councillors to be swiped of their roles, there has also been added support from a reality TV star.

Tanya Bardsley from the Real Housewives of Cheshire has supported the families saying the comments have left her feeling physically sick.

Bradslem, whose son Rocco was diagnosed with ADHD, said: 'How about you stop the accusations, the belittling of mothers and the hypothesising and look into this properly.'

Clare Golby

Hammersley and Golby [pictured above] have both apologised for their sickening outbursts, while Morgan said he ‘regretted’ making the comments.

The incident took place at a recorded meeting on January 25, which was recently shared by SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) Reform England and has already received thousands of views.

In the video Councillor Hammersey asks  if there is 'something in the water' in connection to the rise in SEND children.

'Why are so many people now jumping out with these needs? Where were they in the past when I was at school? I never heard of SEND,' he continues.

Councillor Morgan then questions when parents say their children have special education needs.

He said: 'Councillors shouldn't be automatically accepting the plea of a mother that little Willy has got ADHD when in fact little Willy is just really badly behaved and needs some form of strict correction.'

Other councillors in the room then add their input saying: 'You may have found if you went to a school in the 1960s and 70s many of those children weren't in schools but in institutions of different types at that time.

'They must have had better ways of dealing with them at that time. Let's go back to some of those ways.'

Councillor Golby then implies there is a difference between ‘parenting’ and ‘SEN issues’ suggesting the increased number of SEND children could be related to  'a rise in social media use'. 

Brian Hammersley

Hammersley [pictured above] adds: 'I don't know what the fix is, I just look back at years gone by - those people were dealt with by whatever means - it was right at the time.' 

A number of parents have expressed their disgust at the councillors after the video went viral.

Lisa Lloyd, 39, from Aylesford, North Kent, has two young children who have both been diagnosed with autism.

She said: 'As a mum of two autistic children and one of the co-founders of SEND Reform England, I am absolutely appalled by what I have heard from the Warwickshire Council SEN meeting. 

'There is a difference between badly behaved children and disabled children – their comments showed complete discrimination and how out of touch they are.'

Heather, 39, from Devon, is mum to a five-year-old son who is non verbal.

She said: 'We have people in power, people who make choices for our children, talking with ableist comments… go back to school, get yourself an education and how about sitting at a table with parents who could educate you?

'I am angry, really angry. Our children should be in institutions, wrapped up, strapped down so they can't do anything for themselves? Not learn, grow, thrive, how better outcomes? Class clown award goes to you. Jokers!'

The angry mother added: 'We are living in the year of 2024 now where advocates like myself work hard to promote inclusion, education and support for the mental health of parents like myself.

'To hear councillors that should be protecting children making ableist comments that are very disrespectful and discriminatory is not ok. 

'In any other areas of diverse we wouldn't dare speak the words that have been spoken. These councillors should be out of office, they shouldn't be making decisions about anyone's education, especially those so vulnerable in our society,

'This is not ok – our children are not any less than anyone else they are worthy. These councillors need to look long and hard at themselves and the message they are giving.'

Megan, from Hertfordshire, has a daughter with ASD and ADHD.

 'I was physically sick to my stomach. How about you do something about how your vile system works, and meet a couple of these 'naughty' children, see if you can parent them better? See how that goes for you? This type of talk needs to be stopped!'

Hannah Gibbard (the SEN solicitor) said: 'This is not the first time we have heard this type of uninformed, offensive opinions from councillors. Similar remarks were made in Kent last year which sparked the Send Reform England campaign. Such comments are discriminatory, damaging and shouldn't be allowed.

'These councillors are displaying the upmost ignorance in relation to serious SEND issues and shouldn't be allowed in public office.' 

In response to the number of complaints received a spokesperson for Warwickshire council said: 

'These complaints centre around comments made by three councillors during a meeting of the Children and Young People's Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 25th January 2024.

'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 Council wishes to emphasise that the comments made are not representative of the views of the wider council body including those councillors and officers who work so hard to provide support and opportunities for children with SEND. 

'The Council has built strong relationships with groups within the SEND community, and we are conscious of the damage this situation may cause to those relationships.

'The complaints received will be considered as part of an investigation which the Council's Monitoring Officer has begun.

'Whilst that investigation gets underway it is important that the Council also acknowledges the scale of the upset and to that end those councillors involved wish to apologise personally for their comments.'

She added: '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.'

[ Over 1.5 million pupils in England are identified as having SEND ]

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