CAMPAIGNERS have welcomed calls for central government to take action over the "crisis" in education funding in Dorset.

Dorset Council leader Cllr Spencer Flower has written to Education Secretary Damian Hinds asking him to take urgent action to address the national crisis around funding for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

It follows a protest by SEND parents, teachers and children in Dorchester, when campaigners presented a petition of more than 500 signatures to the council leader demanding that the issue be taken more seriously.

Naomi Patterson, one of the founders of the Dorset Parents Campaign Group for SEND Children, said: "We were pretty shocked when we got to the council and Cllr Spencer Flower said that he would write to the Secretary of State. We are very grateful that the new council is listening and know where we are coming from.

"The fact that they are going to the Department of Education is unbelievable. We pledge to support the councillors in any way we can.

"It's looking like the new council wants to correct the mistakes of the past, so many families have suffered, they have acknowledged that and are putting things in place to change the system, that's what's needed."

She said campaigners would be keen to meet with the Education Minister if he takes up the council's offer to visit the area.

Another spokesman for Dorset Parents Campaign Group for SEND Children said: “We are very pleased that our action has had a significant impact on the council’s stance on this very important issue.

"We have already lobbied our MPs, but will continue to do so and hold them to account on issues of service provision for SEND children here in Dorset.”

However, Cllr Flower emphasised that without additional money from the government, councils face an ‘impossible position.’

In his letter, he highlights that the area has had a 67 per cent increase in young people subject to educational health and care plans, yet the council has only received a seven per cent increase in funding.

The loss of £90m in funding through the government’s Revenue Support Grant is one of the many problems that the council is facing.

Cllr Flower said: "We absolutely share parents’, and schools’, concerns about SEND funding in Dorset, and agree that there is a national crisis. The government needs to re-think its policy and take action, so we can give children and young people the support they need and deserve.

"I’d like to reassure our schools, parents, children and young people that we will press for adequate funding."

Kathryn Booth of NEU Dorset District said: “I thought that he was supportive, emphasising that the approach of the new council was different; and that we were 'pushing at an open door'.

“When people pointed out that they had had no replies from their MPs, he agreed to write, on their behalf, to the Dorset MPs.

“He also stressed that the local authority needed more funding from the government to enable them to provide the essential support our SEND children must have.”