Provision for school special needs cut by over £1bn

The National Education Union has warned that special needs provision in England has lost out on £1.2 billion because of shortfalls in funding increases from central government since 2015.

The union has found that SEND funding granted to local authorities from central government since 2015 has failed to keep up with rapidly increasing demand for special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) provision. It is reported that the number of children and young people granted an Education Health Care Plan (EHCP) has risen from 240,000 to 320,000 in that time - a rise of 33 per cent.

Funding for the high needs block (the budget reserved to fund such additional provision) has only increased by six per cent over the same period, from £5.6 billion to £6 billion in today’s prices. One reason for the rapid increase in demand lies in the extension of EHCP provision to young people with additional needs aged 19-25 – a policy which was unplanned and insufficiently funded.

This translates into massive funding shortfalls for 93 per cent of local authorities across England, resulting in losses of invaluable support staff, increased waiting times for SEN assessment and cuts to specialist provision.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU, said: “The funding shortfall for SEND provision comes against the backdrop of the swingeing cuts to local authority budgets imposed by the Westminster government over the last nine years which have left many councils on the brink.

“Between 2010 and 2020, councils will have lost almost 60p out of every £1 the government had provided for services. This is an appalling way to be addressing the education of some of our most vulnerable children and young people and is causing untold misery and worry for thousands of families.”

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