Angry parents and carers from across warwickshire have left empty bckpacks at the steps of Warwickshire County Council's Shire Hall headquarters in Warwick today as part of their campaign against what they have described as a "crisis" in the provision of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) services in the county.
The protest, lead by the group SEND Crisis Warwickshire, has taken place while an Ofsted inspection for the services takes place this week.
The group has also sent a report to Ofsted to highlight its concerns.
Helen Adkins, a member of SEND Crisis Warwickshire, and, until recently, the leader of the Labour Group at WCC, said: "I know that officers at Warwickshire County Council (WCC) face difficulties with lack of resources from central government, but the Tory Leadership at WCC should be making more noise about the crisis schools and families are facing and should be asking for more money from central government.
"They are just not shouting at all, let alone shouting loudly enough.
"The county council's New Inclusion Programme is all about saving money, sadly at the expense of the safety and best interests of the most vulnerable children in Warwickshire.
"I hope the upcoming OFSTED inspection, will be an opportunity for the council to be open and transparent about the problems families across Warwickshire face in finding the right provision for their children with SEND."
Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) will be visiting Warwickshire County Council and Warwickshire Clinical Commissioning Group this week to carry out the area Inspection.
During the week, inspectors will visit several providers including early year’s settings, schools, further education colleges, independent schools and health provision to gather the relevant evidence needed.
And Warwickshire County Council has said it "welcomes the inspection".
Chief Executive for Warwickshire County Council, Monica Fogarty said: “In Warwickshire we have the highest aspirations for all our children and young people, including the almost 14,000 children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities.
“We welcome the inspection team to Warwickshire along with a further opportunity for parents and carers to have their say.
"Working with our partners, the Warwickshire Parent Carer Forum, parents, carers and their families, we remain committed to supporting all our children and young people, so that Warwickshire is a fully inclusive and child-friendly county.
"We are committed to listening to the voices of our children and their families and should there be improvements to be made we will do so with vigour and pace.
"Children are the future of our communities and each and every voice should be heard. This remains our priority.”
For more information on SEND provision in Warwickshire visit: www.warwickshire.gov.uk/send