SenCom saved as Gwent leaders commit to delivering service until 2022
By Niall Griffiths @niallgriffiths
South Wales Argus
CHILDREN with severe learning needs in Gwent will continue to receive specialist support from a regional service until 2022.
The future of SenCom, which helps youngsters with hearing, communication and visual needs, had been shrouded in uncertainty after Newport said it was planning to leave the service.
Concerned parents, service staff and politicians at both a local and national level heavily criticised the decision, which was later reconsidered and deferred.
Now the leaders of all five regional councils, of Newport, Torfaen, Monmouthshire, Blaenau Gwent and Caerphilly, say they are committed to SenCom until the end of their administrations.
“We are pleased we are now able to signal our joint commitment to the SenCom service,” says a joint statement by the council leaders.
“This will end the uncertainty for the children, their families and the staff within the service, who do a fantastic job supporting children and their families.”
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An external review of SenCom has now been ordered to provide clarity on the ‘range, volume and impact’ of service provision in each local authority.
Such a review had been mooted by Newport leader Debbie Wilcox in February when it was announced that the council’s decision to leave SenCom had been deferred.
SenCom was described as ‘unsustainable’ for Newport in the long term, with the proposed in-house service offering an equivalent level of service while saving £250,000.
But the joint statement says a benefit of the existing service was that funding is calculated on population, not user numbers This, it adds, avoids ‘large unexpected fluctuation’ between areas over time.
The statement continues: “We remain committed to working in collaboration with partners wherever possible.
“We all agree that any collaborative services need to be underpinned by a clear business case and should be subject to regular review.
“We have a responsibility to our citizens, communities and council-tax payers.
“We’re now satisfied that we can continue to work together, so that the service can thrive and children with sensory impairments and their families can get the support they need.”