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Ceredigion Learning Services’ focus on learners with Autism

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MONDAY 26 March marked the start of World Autism Awareness Week 2018. To coincide with this, Ceredigion Special Educational Needs/Additional Learning Needs (SEN/ALN) team arranged for renowned speaker and journalist, Dean Beadle, to give a presentation to an audience of school staff, learning services staff and partnership agencies on Monday, 26 March. Dean shared his humorous and insightful personal experiences of learning and living with autism in order to further raise awareness of autism and its educational implications.

Dean’s presentation forms part of a wider professional development programme of further extending awareness and understanding regarding meeting the needs of pupils with autism within Ceredigion schools. This includes providing a specific training course which enables a member of support staff to undertake the role of ‘Autism Champion’ within their school as well as supporting schools to work through the national ‘Learning with Autism’ project.

Additional grant money has been allocated by the Welsh Government via their Additional Learning Needs (ALN) Innovation Project. This forms part of the Welsh Government’s ALN Reform agenda which will replace the current SEN Bill and Code of Practice from September 2020 onwards. Ceredigion County Council’s role was to develop more innovative ways of providing outreach services in order to further raise schools’ capacity to meet the needs of pupils with ALN. Ceredigion’s SEN/ALN team chose to focus on further increasing schools capacity to meet the needs of pupils with autism more effectively as this specific group of vulnerable learners continues to be a focus in Ceredigion as well as nationally. A team of specialist staff was supported and one of the project elements was to develop and trial an Autism Champion training package.

The training course was developed and delivered by representatives from a range of specialist services, including Educational Psychology, Speech and language therapy, Occupational therapy as well as SEN/ALN advisory teachers and specialist teachers from specialist resource centres within Ceredigion. The training has now been delivered to a number of teaching assistants from Ceredigion schools which included all seven secondary schools and 31 primary schools.

The aim of the Autism Champions is to further increase schools capacity in supporting pupils with autism and provide advice to teachers as well as playing a key role in supporting their schools to work through the ‘Learning with Autism’ programme and achieve the National award for Autism Aware Schools developed by ASDinfo Wales, the national website for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

Nine Ceredigion schools took part in an initial pilot to use the Learning with Autism resources in order to raise awareness of ASD/Autism across all members of their school community. Some of these schools have now successfully attained the National Award with others close to submitting. With the additional resource of the Autism Champions, Ceredigion’s SEN/ALN team are encouraging these schools to work towards this award by the end of July 2018. Dean Beadle’s presentation is part of this focus on further extending Ceredigion’s schools and learning services staff’s awareness of autism.

Councillor Catrin Miles, Cabinet member for responsibility for Learning Services said, “The ‘Learning with Autism’ programme is a great step towards raising further understanding and awareness of Autism and to ensure that Ceredigion schools are fully equipped with meeting the needs of pupils with autism more effectively. The Council is committed to supporting and providing an inclusive education for all children living in Ceredigon.”

For more information contact the Special Educational Needs Department on 01970633710 or email sen@ceredigion.gov.uk

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Council tax reduction supports people on low incomes

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A COUNCIL Tax Reduction Scheme is in place to help people who are on a low income. The council administers the scheme on behalf of the Welsh Government for people who are liable to pay Council Tax and who live in Ceredigion. With the recent decision to raise Council Tax by 7%, residents on low incomes are being urged to find out if they are entitled to some help towards paying their Council Tax.

People can be eligible for the reduction if they are on a low income, working or unemployed, cannot work because of illness, retired or are caring for someone. The amount of the reduction depends on a person’s circumstances and how much Council Tax they need to pay.

Councillor Gareth Lloyd is the Cabinet member responsible for Financial Services. He said, “We made the difficult decision to raise Council Tax by 7% to reduce the amount of cuts we have to make to council services. The reality is that the council is getting less money from the Welsh Government at a time when costs and demand for services are rising.”

“We want to urge anyone who is on a low income to consider if they are eligible for Council Tax Reduction. Tax increases can add pressure onto people’s budgets, and although this increase is vital to keep quality services in Ceredigion, we want to make sure that anyone who is eligible for help gets it.”

For more information on eligibility and how to claim council tax reduction, email revenues@ceredigion.gov.uk or call 01970 633 252.

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7% council tax increase to protect education funding

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THE COUNCIL TAX in Ceredigion for 2019-2020 will increase by 7%. The increase was agreed by councillors to reduce the impact of cuts to the Council’s budget and, in particular, to protect education spending. The decision was made in a Council meeting on 21 February 2019.

2% of the 7% increase will be used to protect education spending. Schools budgets have been under severe stress after years of needing to make savings. Costs have increased yet again following the agreement of new teachers’ salary increases together with increased pension contributions. This extra 2% uplift will enable school budgets to be kept flat.

The council tax rate increase is set by three key components, the County Council’s tax, the precept of Town and Community Councils and the Police precept. Increases set by the Police and Town and Community Councils result in a combined increase of 7.56%.

Councillor Ellen ap Leader of the Council, said, “We had no option but to ask Council to increase Council Tax by 7% in order to reduce the impact of the cuts we have had to make across council budgets. A successful Ceredigion in the future needs well-funded and well run schools. We want to invest in the future of our children and our county.”

“The reality is that the council is getting less money from the Welsh Government at a time when costs and demand for services are rising. The uplift of teachers’ salaries and pensions has not been fully funded by Welsh Government to date. If council tax had not increased, we would have to make deeper cuts.”

In 2018-2019, the average Council Tax Band D property was £1,226.48. The increase means that the same property will pay £1,312.33 in 2019-2020. The council’s budget has been cut by £39m or 25% in the last seven years. The Council will still need to save another £6m in the coming financial year.

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Information management policies updated to improve security

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THREE key information management policies have been updated by Ceredigion County Council. The policies were updated because of new laws and the need make sure that they are effective in a changing technological environment.

The updated policies were approved by the council’s Cabinet in a meeting on 19 February 2019.

The three policies that have been reviewed are:

· Data Protection/GDPR Policy
· Information Security Policy
· Information and Records Management Policy

The Deputy Leader of Ceredigion County Council and Cabinet member responsible for Governance, Councillor Ray Quant MBE said, “The council needs to keep information and data to carry out the many service we provide. Because of this we have to make sure we’re up to date on data and information protections laws. This decision means that we have approved the hard work done to update the policies and make sure that they are fit for use.”

The policies are essential to manage digital and paper records of the council.

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