Tory councillors sorry for 'disgusting' remarks about special needs children

Warwickshire County Council came under fire after councillors were filmed commenting that some SEND children are 'just badly behaved'.

Tory councillors in Warwickshire have apologised after video footage showed them making "offensive" and "disgusting" remarks about children with special educational needs.

Warwickshire County Council leader Izzi Seccombe has apologised after video showed one councillor claiming that some special educational needs and disability (SEND) children are "just really badly behaved", while another said there were "better ways of dealing with them in the 60s and 70s". Another councillor suggested there must be "something in the water" in relation to the high number of reported SEND children.

The local authority came under fire after a video of councillors in a children and young person’s scrutiny meeting on 25 January gained traction online. The discussion was about the rising cost of council support in the area and the councillors said the increase could be due to "something in the water" and suggested considering "going back" to a time when "they were in institutions".

Councillor Clare Golby at the meeting that has caused outrage.
Councillor Clare Golby at the meeting that has caused outrage. (Warwickshire County Council/SWNS)

Councillor Clare Golby responded and asked if this could be linked because of the use of social media. Cllr Brian Hammersley claims that he had never heard of SEND when he was at school, and someone explained that this is because, in the 60s and 70s, children were sent to institutions. He responded: “They must have had better ways of dealing with them at that time - let’s go back to some of those ways.”

Golby said that she had seen websites where parents have been swapping tips on how to get their children diagnosed. She added: “What comes down to parenting and what comes down to actually SEND issues?"

Meanwhile, councillor Jeff Morgan suggested that some children just need discipline, adding: "I don’t want to be too Daily Mail on this, but I am yeah. Not automatically accepting the plea of a mother, saying that Little Willy has got ADHD [attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder], when in actual fact, Little Willy is just really badly behaved and needs some sort of strict correction."

More West Mids stories - click above
More West Mids stories - click above

The comments led to outrage from parents who came across the video clip. One grandmother, 54, said her daughter, who has two kids with SEND, called her in tears after seeing the video. Her grandson has autism, and another is waiting to be assessed for ADHD.

The grandmother said: "You do not sit there and say that SEND people should be institutionalised. Yes, you have naughty children, but some of them aren't naughty."

The video was posted to TikTok by an account that is campaigning for the improvement of education for children with additional needs. There are thousands of comments from people under the video expressing their shock at what the Tory councillors said. One comment reads: "As a mother of a SEND child from Warwickshire I am absolutely appalled that people like this have a voice!"

Golby said that she had seen websites where parents have been swapping tips on how to get their children diagnosed. She added: “What comes down to parenting and what comes down to actually SEND issues?"

Councillor Jeff Morgan claimed children may just need
Councillor Jeff Morgan claimed children may just need 'strict correction'. (Warwickshire County Council/SWNS)

A mum posted a TikTok of two photos that has since gone viral. Grace Bruce said she was 'moved to tears' and linked the councillor's comments to the increase of parents opting for homeschooling. She wrote: "The moment I see that video I was like WOW now this is why I fear the school system SO much."

Another person commented and said: "If these people cannot see the difference between parenting and SEN? they shouldn't be in office." Another commenter said: "Wow what chance do our children have with the likes of people like this in charge."

Seccombe, responding to the anger over the comments from the meeting, has since apologised. She said: “I am so sorry for the distress this situation has caused, particularly to SEND children and their families.”

Each of the councillors have since apologised in a statement shared by Warwickshire council. Morgan said: As a former cabinet member and councillor of nine years I regret any offence caused by my choice of words. It was never my intention to offend, and I regret the words I used to make a point about demand and need in the SEND area.

Hammersley also apologised, and said he has "some learning to do". He said: "I regret my clumsiness and lack of care in choosing my words and can see the upset and offence they caused. I am terribly sorry and will be more thoughtful with my questions and words in future."

Golby said the words she used in the meeting were "open to interpretation" and that she never intended to offend. She said: "I apologise for any offence caused.”

A petition made by Melvyna Hawes asks Warwickshire County Council to prioritise their SEND funding and demand the dismissal of the three councillors who made the offensive remarks. Hawes wrote: "As a concerned parent of a 6-year-old son diagnosed with autism and global development delay, I am deeply troubled by the actions of this local council." The petition has 15,000 signatures so far.

The authority said it had received a number of complaints which were being considered by the council's monitoring officer.