Statement from Cllr Kate Booth
Cllr Kate Booth has made the following statement about her decision to step down as cabinet member.
"I took on the role of Birmingham's Cabinet Member for Children's Services in May 2018, inheriting the complex issues relating to rapidly increasing demand for services following decades of poor performance and lack of government funding for SEND services.
"Now, given the recent re-inspection findings, which I fully accept, and the timescale involved I have taken the decision to step aside to allow a new Cabinet Member with a fresh approach and perspective to build on the work I have started and the large scale task of creating a service that meets the needs of children, carers and families.
"I had already shared with the Leader and my local constituency MP Preet Gill that I would be retiring in 2022 and not standing for re-election to the city council in May. I will of course continue to serve the people of Quinton and the citizens of Birmingham to the best of my abilities and look forward to fresh challenges. I will be keen to watch and see the much-needed improvements for our children with SEND their carers and families. I have really enjoyed the challenges of this role and working with our Parent Carer Forum and our Special Schools my heart has always been on improving the services to our children with additional needs; they have a right to better services.
"As a former teacher, I know how vitally important it is to have the right services, support and opportunities in place, so that children can realise their potential and lead fulfilled inclusive lives. Before joining the council, I spent my entire professional life in Birmingham’s schools supporting every student and I have relished seeing countless young people thrive and succeed. It has been my privilege as Cabinet Member for Birmingham's Children's Services, to begin and lead on the transformation of SEND provision in Birmingham from frequently segregated approaches to a greater emphasis on inclusion in mainstream with optimum support for every child.
"I have overseen the policy and strategic direction of local services including:
- Birmingham Children's Trust which is now on the path to GOOD having been put into special measures under the previous administration.
- Having taken over responsibility for the Home to School Transport system and have overseen substantial improvements in the last year.
- OFSTED praised the transition to local provision and I am absolutely convinced that every child should be enabled and supported to achieve optimum independence and lead fulfilling lives.
- In the case of broader SEND services, a new action plan will shortly be in place to ensure that rapid improvements will be made.
- A number of key staff members that have moved-on, and I am confident that we will shortly have in place far better capacity to improve. Notwithstanding the pace of improvement was insufficient in the first 18 months before changes had bedded-in.
"However, there continues to be a wider issue with SEND provision and the Government review must include substantial extra support for our children with additional needs and a fundamental refresh of the physical estate and resources for integrating all our children in the city’s schools and in our communities. I would urge Vicky Ford the Minister for Children and Families to argue for substantial new financial support for the nation’s beleaguered SEND services.
"I agree with Cllr Teresa Heritage, Conservative vice-chair of the LGA Children and Young People Board: ‘The Government needs to urgently complete its ongoing review of the SEND system. It needs to set out reforms that increase mainstream inclusion, provides councils with the long-term certainty of funding to meet the needs of all children with SEND, and gives councils the power to hold education partners to account if their provision for identifying and supporting children with SEND is not adequate.’
"I fully accept the need for continued improvements to SEND services in Birmingham, but there is a broader national issue that must also be resolved.
"It has been an honour and a privilege to serve as the Cabinet Member for Birmingham's Children's Services and I am confident that we have laid the foundation for a more efficient and effective service that is able to best meet the needs of our children and young people, as well as their families."
City council leader Cllr Ian Ward has said:
"I want to thank Kate for her efforts as Cabinet Member for Children’s Wellbeing over the last three years. Kate has led this service through a difficult period, giving 100 per cent commitment to the children and young people of this city.
“As a teacher, Kate dedicated her entire career to improving the lives and life chances of young people and those efforts continued in her time as cabinet member.
"Now, our focus must be on urgently addressing the serious issues raised in the Ofsted re-inspection of SEND services and in speeding up the pace of change and improvement.
"We must listen and learn to ensure that the much-needed transformation of the service delivers the best possible outcomes for all children, young people, carers and parents and I’m personally committed to getting this right."