New support for children with special educational needs

Education Secretary Damian Hinds has announced an additional £350 million to support children with complex needs and disabilities, with councils set to receive £250 million as part of the funding.

Local authorities will receive an additional £250 million over the next two years, on top of the £6 billion already provided for the high needs budget this year, to provide much needed support for children and young people with complex special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

The funding for councils arrives at the same time as the Local Government Association forecast 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.

In addition to the government funding for councils, Hinds said that more special free schools will get the green light as the Department for Education seeks to approve all high quality bids in the current round of special and alternative provision free schools applications, creating even more choice for parents. The remaining £100 million of the investment will be used to create more specialist places in mainstream schools, colleges and special schools, giving more children and young people access to a good school or college place that meets their individual needs.

Hinds said: “Being a parent, we all want the very best for our children. We want them to attend a school that supports them to thrive, go on to higher or further education or training, find a job that’s right for them, and to live happy and fulfilled lives.

“For children with special educational needs this is no different. It is important that they have the right support in place at school – whether that is in a mainstream setting, with additional support, or in a special school. We recognise that the high needs budget faces significant pressures and this additional investment will help local councils to manage those pressures, whilst being able to invest to provide more support. Every school or college should be one for a young person with special educational needs; every teacher should be equipped to teach them, and families need to feel supported."

Carl Les, County Councils Network children’s services and education spokesman, and leader of North Yorkshire County Council, said: “Today’s announcement is a welcome shot in the arm, which will help meet extra demand and reduce our overspends over next two years, helping to ensure more children get the support they need. County leaders have been making the case in public and in private, and we are pleased that ministers have listened.

"Our research showing that overspends on these vital services for young people had increased by 63 per cent over the past three years for the high needs block of funding, projected to total £175 million by 2020 in county areas. Funding had remained static whilst demand rose, and as a result many councils were left in the regrettable position of having to request to move money from other schools and use their own resources to make up the shortfall.

“Looking ahead, we should be under no illusions of the scale of the challenge - the demand for special educational needs services shows no signs of abating. Next year’s Spending Review offers the perfect opportunity to set out a long-term funding solution for special educational needs, and we urge ministers to build on today’s announcement and ensure that these services are adequately funded in the long-term.”