HIGH court judicial review proceedings are set to be issued against Newport City Council’s decision to leave a Gwent-wide special needs support service, the South Wales Argus understands.

On January 8, the South Wales Argus revealed a case was being built against the council’s decision to save £250,000 by leaving the Sensory and Communication Support Service (SenCom).

The service, funded by Newport, Torfaen, Monmouthshire, Blaenau Gwent and Caerphilly local authorities, supports children from ages 0 to 19 with hearing, communication and visual disabilities.

Newport council gave six months’ notice to leave the service in October last year, but now that decision has been challenged.

At the centre of the case is Brogan Battersby, a nine-year-old blind Newport boy who suffers from autism, epilepsy and a joint instability syndrome.


(Brogan Battersby, 9, relies on SenCom support)

He, along with 380 children in Newport with hearing, visual and communication impairments, relies on highly specialised SenCom support.

Law firm Watkins and Gunn have secured legal aid for Brogan, and sent a letter to the council on Friday challenging the legality of their decision to leave SenCom.

It’s understood a response from Newport council has been received and a case is set to be issued in the high court early next week.

READ MORE: Newport City Council defend their decision to leave SenCom

A Newport council spokesman previously said the authority were confident they had acted legally and appropriately throughout this process.

They added: “We have consistently reassured clients that the new Newport provision will be equivalent to that currently provided by the regional service.”

In a second statement, the council said: “Newport City Council has a responsibility to deliver the best services to local communities and that includes its pledge to deliver the service provided by SenCom.

“It is important to restate that the new arrangement will not result in a cut to current service provision.


(Benjamin Mills, 11, has expressed concern for his future post SenCom)

“Over the last few weeks there has been media coverage which suggests our decision to establish a Newport only service will cause disruption for service users and also destabilise the remaining partnership.

“The council does not understand why a judicial review of the decision to withdraw from the SenCom service partnership has been called for when there are no proposed changes to the service to be delivered by Newport.”

Newport council also said that while it understood the priority given to regional working, and was fully committed to working in partnerships, but added that they had a duty to "secure value for money" for Newport's taxpaying citizens.

The South Wales Argus now understands that Watkins and Gunn are planning to escalate the case, with judicial review proceedings set to be issued to the high court early next week.

READ MORE: Sixteen SenCom staff at risk as Newport council decide to pull out

Torfaen Assembly Member Lynne Neagle today (January 11) promised to keep pressure on Newport City Council over its plans to pull out SenCom.

The AM reconfirmed her commitment to fight to keep the Pontypool-based service open after meeting with staff.

She said: “I do not believe Newport can provide a better service than the one we already have and that is being delivered on a regional basis.


(Robert Hiett, pictured with his daughter Demi-Rose, started a petition against the decision)

“The expertise and the facilities available are wonderful. It is a very worrying time for the families and staff at the centre.

“I will continue to keep pushing Newport as hard as I can to change its mind. I call on Newport Council, again, to do the right thing and put the needs of these very vulnerable children first.”

The AM added she has already raised the issue in the Chamber and with the Children’s Commissioner.

In December last year, Monmouthshire County Council passed a motion publicly backing SenCom.

READ MORE: Eleven-year-old is latest to raise fears for future after SenCom withdrawal

A spokesman said: “This council strongly disagrees with Newport City Council’s decision to withdraw from the regional SenCom service and deeply regrets the level of uncertainty it has created around this essential support network.

Monmouthshire County Council remains firmly committed to this service and will work with all partners to reduce any uncertainty or fears held by staff and parents.”

Blind charity RNIB Cymru have also voiced their concern in a letter sent to Newport council on behalf of Wales Council of the Blind, Guide Dogs Cymru and Sight Cymru.

A petition against the decision has been signed by more than 1,800 people.