Wales

Gwent SenCom unit backed until at least 2022

Dawn Battersby with her grandson Brogan
Image caption Dawn Battersby and grandson Brogan, 9, have used the service since he was three months old

A specialist service for children with severe learning needs in south Wales will continue for at least three years.

Parents and staff feared for the future of SenCom when Newport City Council said it planned to pull out in April.

Newport then shelved its plan, but all five councils involved have now said they are committed to SenCom until at least the 2022 council elections.

Dawn Battersby, who cares for her blind grandson Brogan, nine, in Newport, said it was the "biggest sigh of relief".

SenCom helps children who have vision, hearing and communication problems and is jointly funded by Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Newport, Monmouthshire and Torfaen councils.

Charities raised concerns of a "postcode lottery" of provision when Newport council announced plans to pull out of SenCom and create its own team, claiming it would save £250,000 a year.

However, a joint statement issued by the leaders of the five councils - three Labour, one Tory and one independent - said: "We are pleased we are now able to signal our joint commitment to the SenCom service.

"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."

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.

Newport council leader Debbie Wilcox had suggested a review in February when the council deferred its decision to go it alone, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Ms Battersby, whose situation was highlighted by the BBC's Wales Live programme, said she was "delighted" by the news.

"We've had a horrendous six months - not just the parents, but also the staff who were at risk of losing their jobs," she told the BBC.

"To hear that we've now got security for the next three years is by far the biggest sigh of relief that anyone could wish for."

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