Pres­sure on ser­vices will grow as schools and de­mo­graph­ics change

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BYSIMONROCKER

WE MAY have to rely on wellinformed es­ti­mates rather than cast-iron statis­tics for the in­ci­dence of learn­ing dis­abil­ity within British Jewry.

But it is safe to as­sume that the call on com­mu­nal ser­vices is more likely to in­crease than de­cline.

First, be­cause the Strictly Ortho­dox are form­ing an ever-greater pro­por­tion of the over­all Jewish pop­u­la­tion, they are more likely to seek help within a re­li­giously sym­pa­thetic en­vi­ron­ment rather than the gen­eral ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem.

Se­cond, as more chil­dren have opted for Jewish school­ing over the past 10 years, so the Jewish ed­u­ca­tional net­work over­all is likely to find it­self deal­ing with a higher num­ber of chil­dren with some kind of spe­cial ed­u­ca­tional need. Sig­nif­i­cant ini­tia­tives are al­ready in train.

When Kisharon day school moves from be­ing an in­de­pen­dent to a state­sup­ported free school, and even­tu­ally into a new build­ing in 2019, it will dou­ble its pupil ca­pac­ity to more than 70.

This Septem­ber, Gesher will open on the cam­pus of Si­nai Pri­mary School in Kenton, north west Lon­don, spe­cial­is­ing in ed­u­ca­tion for chil­dren on the autism spec­trum and with var­i­ous com­mu­ni­ca­tion or be­havioural dis­or­ders. The school-within-a-school model will en­able them to re­ceive ex­pert at­ten­tion and ther­a­peu­tic sup­port at the same time as be­ing part of a larger school com­mu­nity.

Launched five years ago, the char­ity Chil­dren Ahead now pro­vides sup­port to 150 boys in Strictly Ortho­dox schools in Stam­ford Hill. But ac­cord­ing to Matty Beck, de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer for the char­ity ad­vi­sory ser­vice, In­ter­link, Chil­dren Ahead has a long wait­ing list.

“When we first started, there was a lot of re­luc­tance from par­ents and schools to deal with learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties,” she says. “But the stigma has fallen away. Peo­ple are more open to get­ting chil­dren screened and iden­ti­fied but that is cre­at­ing pres­sure on com­mu­nity re­sources.”

Ac­cord­ing to In­ter­link’s con­ser­va­tive es­ti­mate, there are more than 550 Charedi chil­dren in the Stam­ford Hill com­mu­nity with mild learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties. But since they are ed­u­cated in in­de­pen­dent rather than state-aided schools, there is no ex­ter­nal fund­ing for ad­di­tional sup­port such as speech and lan­guage or oc­cu­pa­tional ther­apy.

Whereas, ac­cord­ing to the gen­eral preva­lence of spe­cial ed­u­ca­tional needs in Hack­ney, around 240 Charedi chil­dren would be ex­pected to be beneficiaries of an Ed­u­ca­tion, Health and Care Plan — en­ti­tling them to funded ed­u­ca­tional sup­port — In­ter­link knows of only two-thirds of that num­ber.

Gen­er­ally, Jewish agen­cies agree that the big­gest chal­lenge is to en­sure con­tin­u­ing sup­port for those who need it af­ter school in or­der to en­able them to live as in­de­pen­dently as pos­si­ble.

The high cost of hous­ing in and around Lon­don — pro­vided for those who need as­sis­tance with ac­com­mo­da­tion – is set to add to char­ity bills.

If Lang­don chair­man Jonathan Joseph is right, there are more young Jewish peo­ple who could be call­ing on Jewish char­i­ties.

The next step is to find them.

Char­i­ties pre­dict a rise in re­quests for ser­vices from school-age chil­dren

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