INDEPENDENT 2024-02-07 18:03:55


Councillors’ Dickensian comments on disabled children caught on camera

Three Conservative councillors have been forced to apologise after offensive comments on special needs children during a council meeting, including asking if there was ‘something in the water’.

One also questioned why there are “so many people now jumping out with these needs”, asking “where were they in the past when I was at school?”

Another also described how rather than a child having ADHD, they might be “really badly behaved” and “need some form of strict correction”.

It was explained to him that children with special needs were not seen in schools in the 1960s and 1970s because they were placed in institutions.

The attitudes of the councillors were branded “Dickensian” and show the need for more education in this area, a coalition of charities has said.

The three Conservative members of Warwickshire County Council have issued apologies and an investigation has been launched after the remarks at a council meeting were shared online.

In a montage clip of the January meeting, councillors asked if there was “something in the water” regarding more cases of Send (special educational needs and disabilities) and remarked that some children might need a “form of strict correction”.

The MP for Warwick and Leamington, Matt Western, said he had written to the leader of the council “to express my profound concern over the comments”.

A mother who shared the footage online said the councillors’ apologies were not sufficient and that they should do the “decent thing” and resign.

In the meeting, one councillor, Brian Hammersley, in an apparent reference to a recent rise in Send cases, can be heard to ask “is it something in the water?”

He also questioned why there are “so many people now jumping out with these needs”, asking “where were they in the past when I was at school? I’d never heard of Send.”

Someone explains that children with special needs were not seen in schools in the 1960s and 1970s because they were placed in institutions.

Later in the clip, Mr Hammersley said: “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.”

Councillor Clare Golby is heard to ask: “What comes down to parenting and what comes down to Send issues?”

She told the meeting she had seen sites where families were “swapping tips on how to get their children diagnosed”.

Councillor Jeff Morgan described how rather than a child having ADHD, they might be “really badly behaved” and “need some form of strict correction”.

The council said it had received a number of complaints about the comments which were made during a meeting of the Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Committee on January 25.

The council said the remarks had caused “significant offence, distress and upset to children and their families within the special educational needs and disabilities community” and insisted they “are not representative of the views of the wider council body”.

The complaints are now being considered as part of an investigation by the council’s monitoring officer.

Mr Morgan said he regretted “any offence caused by my choice of words” while Mr Hammersley said he regretted his “clumsiness and lack of care in choosing my words” as he committed to being “more thoughtful with my questions and words in future”.

Ms Golby also apologised for the offence caused and accepted “that the words I used at the meeting were open to interpretation”.

The Disabled Children’s Partnership, a coalition of more than 100 organisations, said: “Unfortunately, the Warwickshire councillors’ Dickensian attitudes are not unique.”

Its campaign manager, Stephen Kingdom, said: “This lack of understanding is astonishing in 2024 and shows how much education is required for people making life or death decisions about vulnerable children.”

A protest outside the council buildings has been organised by a parents’ group to take place on Thursday against “the disgusting language” used at the meeting.

Elissa Novak, whose four-year-old son is non-verbal and has mobility issues, saw the “frightening” comments had been made and was moved to find the footage and share it online.

Hearing such views came as no real surprise, she said.

“I think we (in the Send community) all know those beliefs are held but actually having proof, I think that was a big part of why it (the footage) was shared,” she said.

Child killer nurse Lucy Letby in second bid for freedom

Child serial killer Lucy Letby is renewing her bid to challenge her convictions at the Court of Appeal.

The nurse had an initial application for permission to appeal against all of her convictions refused by a judge without a hearing last month.

Letby has since chosen to renew her efforts to take forward her appeal, a judicial spokeswoman confirmed on Wednesday.

A hearing is expected to be held in London before a panel of three senior judges at a later date, where they will decide whether to grant leave to appeal.

In August 2023, Letby, 34, of Hereford, was sentenced to 14 whole life orders after she was convicted of the murders of seven babies and the attempted murders of six others, with two attempts on one of her victims.

The offences took place at the Countess of Chester Hospital’s neonatal unit, where nurse Letby worked, between June 2015 and June 2016.

Typically, applications for permission to appeal against a crown court decision are considered by a judge looking at legal documents without a hearing.

If this is refused, people have 14 days to renew their bid for permission at a full court hearing before two or three judges.

The jury in Letby’s trial at Manchester Crown Court was unable to reach verdicts on six counts of attempted murder in relation to five children.

Letby will face a retrial at the same court in June on a single count that she attempted to murder a baby girl, known as Child K, in February 2016.

A court order prohibits reporting of the identities of the surviving and dead children who were the subject of the allegations.

Now it’s not for girls or boys: Nestle ditches Yorkie biscuit bar

Nestle has announced it will stop making two of Britain’s favourite childhood biscuits, the Breakaway and Yorkie biscuit bars.

The chocolate giant said the chocolate-covered Breakaway, which was first launched in 1970, will no longer be produced from March, to make way for new products.

The Yorkie biscuit bar is also being ditched, but the chocolate bar of the same name is“staying for good”, Nestle said.

The biscuit bars will disappear from shelves following a decline in sales, the company announced. It comes after Nestle blamed falling sales on its decision in November to discontinue the Caramac bar after 64 years.

Breakaway fans can still buy the bar throughout February and March at Sainsbury’s while stocks last.

The Breakaway, made with wholemeal, oat and coconut flours, was launched in 1970 by Rowntree Mackintosh before being acquired by Nestlé in 1988.

A Nestle spokeswoman said: “We know fans will be disappointed to see it go, but it’s time for us to say goodbye to Breakaway.

“We have seen a decline in the sales of Breakaway over the past few years and, unfortunately, we had to make the difficult decision to discontinue it.

“By saying goodbye to Breakaway, we can focus on our best-performing brands, as well as develop exciting new innovations to delight consumers’ tastebuds.”

She added: “While we know it’s sad to see Yorkie Biscuit go, we want to assure shoppers that we have plenty of exciting new products lined up for 2024. Watch this space.”

Nestle said one new product will be a variation on the Blue Riband bar – a biscuit called Blue Riband Hazelnut with hazelnut filling layered between the wafers, which will be available in supermarkets from February.

In November the confectionary company dealt a further blow to sweet-toothed Brits as it decided to stop manufacturing Animal Bars.

The Animal bar was launched in 1963 as a real milk chocolate bar, with a fun game on the inside of each wrapper. Every bar has two different named animals moulded on the surface.

Previously bars that have been previously ‘axed’ made it back it the shelves, including Wispas.

Yorkie bars were sold under a marketing campaign 20 years ago as being ‘not for girls’.

Nigeria vs South Africa LIVE: Afcon semi-final latest updates

Nigeria take on South Africa in the first Africa Cup of Nations semi-final this evening in what promises to be a barnstorming clash at the Stade de la Paix in Bouake.

Both teams have been defensively solid throughout the tournament with Nigeria only conceding one goal on their route to the final four – in their opening game against Equatorial Guinea – having kept four clean sheets in a row. That feat was matched by South Africa in their penalty shootout victory over Cape Verde after Bafana Bafana had held their opponents to a goalless draw to also record a fourth straight clean sheet.

The Super Eagles, who have been short on goals in this tournament, edged past Angola in their quarter-final thanks to Ademola Lookman’s first half strike. It was the only goal of the game and the third time in this tournament that Nigeria have won 1-0.

Only once since the last time Nigeria won the title, which was over a decade ago, have they reached this stage of the competition. They have lost five of their last six Afcon semi-final matches but that is nothing in comparison to South Africa who last reached the final four in 2000.

Follow all the action below plus get the latest Afcon odds and tips right here:

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The King has done us all a service by being open about his diagnosis

A cancer diagnosis is a deeply personal thing, so King Charles should be lauded for the openness with which he has shared his news with the world.

The impact of that openness should not be underestimated: it is likely to encourage people to book potentially life-saving check-ups, and the increase in cancer awareness should hopefully provide a boost to the charities and care groups that advance research and support those in need.

That his announcement represents a break with tradition is also worthy of note; it is a welcome move at a difficult time.

What does the launch of Liz Truss’s PopCon tell us about the Tories?

Liz Truss has launched (yet) another Tory grouping, in her latest attempt to steer the Conservative Party to the right. It is a further blow to Rishi Sunak’s efforts to unite his party ahead of the general election.

Popular Conservatism, or PopCon for short, aims to influence the debate on what should be included in the Tory election manifesto. But it will also put down a marker for what many Tories privately expect to be an inquest into a crushing election defeat.