Councils call for emergency injection of special needs funding

By agency reporter
December 17, 2018

An “emergency injection” of funding is needed to prop up support for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), which faces a potential funding gap of up to £1.6 billion by 2020, council leaders say.

New analysis in a report published by the LGA on 16 December 2018 forecasts that the current SEND funding deficit could double to an estimated £806 million next year based on historical trends. This could continue to rise to between £1.2 billion and £1.6 billion in 2020/21.

Councils have previously been drawing on reserves and other pots of funding to make up the shortfall, which this year could reach a projected £472 million, but are now reaching the point where money to provide these vital services is running out.

The LGA is calling for an “emergency injection” of cash from the Government when it announces the forthcoming Dedicated Schools Grant, which includes High Needs Funding allocations for councils to support children with SEND to provide a temporary solution to the crisis facing this support.

At the same time, the LGA says the Government should launch a national review of SEND provision to overhaul of the support provided for children with special needs. This should include “a fundamental reboot” of the powers councils need to commission support for children with special needs and a rethink of what is needed to address the pressures that are driving ever-greater demand.

This could see councils given the powers to ensure schools, health and social care all share costs associated with SEND, rather than it just being a local government responsibility.

Councils have experienced a big increase in demand to provide SEND support.

Government figures show the number of children and young people with Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) or statements, which detail the support a child with SEND receives, has increased by 35 per cent in five years, from 237,111 in 2013/14 to 319,819 in 2017/18.

The number of children and young people educated in special schools and specialist colleges has risen by 24 per cent during the same period, from 105,442 in 2013/14 to 131,230 in 2017/18.

High Needs Funding also funds the cost of education for children excluded and placed in alternative provision. Latest figures show a 66 per cent increase in exclusions, from 4,630 in 2012/13 to 7,720 in 2016/17. Around 42 per cent of excluded children in 2016/17 had some form of special educational needs.

The biggest factor in this increase is the extension of responsibility for young people from 16 to 25. This is closely followed by the pressures on state-funded special school capacity and the increased use of independent and non-maintained special school places or state-funded special schools out of area.

The report also finds 97 per cent of councils surveyed say they expect their SEND spending to continue to increase while more than eight in 10 are not confident they will be able to balance their budgets in future.

Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “Parents rightly expect and aspire to see that their child has the best possible education and receives the best possible support.

“But the current system that supports children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities is at a tipping point, and in need of an emergency injection of funding just to keep services afloat.

“Councils have done all they can but the reality is the money is not there to keep up with the unprecedented demand they are experiencing, which is why we are urging the Government to address this in the upcoming Dedicated Schools Grant.

“It is clear the existing system is not working. The Government should initiate a national review of how we can collectively provide the support children and their families desperately need.”

* Read the Local Government Association report on SEND funding here

* Local Government Association https://www.local.gov.uk/

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