Gwent SenCom support unit rethink by Newport 'causing instability'

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

Staff at a children's special needs service are facing further uncertainty, its boss claims, after a council put on hold until 2020 its plans to pull out.

Newport City Council planned to leave the Gwent Sensory and Communication Support Unit (SenCom) to go it alone.

It now says it will work with the other four councils to see how the service can be "improved or remodelled".

But Roger Thurlbeck, head of SenCom, said the decision to defer had created "significant uncertainty again".

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 create its own team, claiming it would save £250,000 a year.

Dawn Battersby, from Newport, told the BBC's Wales Live programme she feared any change of staff working with her blind grandson Brogan would be "unbearable".

Absent staff

Mr Thurlbeck told a meeting of Monmouthshire councillors the service had already drawn up plans to shed 16 posts in response to Newport's decision to pull out.

He said staff knew who was facing redundancy, who was staying and who would be joining the Newport team, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

"We are in a state of uncertainty, and some instability as well," he told councillors.

"My absence level of staff has gone up over the last week or so.

"I have six members of staff away at the moment - five of those are directly related to the changes in management process we face."

Newport council says it will now work with the other Gwent authorities to review the SenCom service, to consider how it can be "improved or remodelled" to meet everyone's requirements.

Council leader Debbie Wilcox said the current model was "not providing the best possible service for young people in Newport".

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