Children with SEND will lose out as vital services face £500m funding shortfall

Karen Faux
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Research from the London Government Association (LGA) highlights the extent to which local councils are struggling to meet growing demand for statutory services to support pupils with special educational needs.

Research from the LGA suggests that the projected shortfall facing vital services for children with SEND in England is £536 million for 2018/19. This is more than double the gap they faced the previous year as councils struggle to cope with rising demand for support.

These are findings based on a survey of 73 councils (half of local authorities with SEND duties).

The LGA is warning that this growing gap is putting at risk the ability of councils to meet their statutory duties, and that children with SEND could miss out on a mainstream education without urgent action by the Government to provide investment in the Local Government Finance Settlement in December. The underfunding of SEND is also adding to the severe pressures already facing schools.  

This comes as 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. 

Local authorities have found themselves increasingly under pressure to provide SEND services, which is due to a variety of factors. These include population growth; the code of SEND practice rightly raising expectations of parents; more young people aged 16 and over being on Education and Health Care Plans (EHCPs), and core funding pressures on mainstream schools impacting their ability to support pupils with high needs.

Council overspends
The LGA’s research shows that councils have overspent their allocated budgets for children with SEND, known as the High Needs Block, for the last four years.

This has seen them ‘top up’ budgets with funding from elsewhere such as general schools budgets. However this flexibility to transfer funding has now been significantly curtailed by government restrictions, further exacerbating pressures on councils.

Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said:

‘We face a looming crisis in meeting the unprecedented rise in demand for support from children with special educational needs and disabilities.

‘Parents rightly expect and aspire to see that their child has the best possible education and receives the best possible support.

‘Councils have pulled out all the stops to try and do this, but are reaching the point where the money is simply not there to keep up with demand.

‘Schools are also being pushed to the brink by the underfunding of SEND, at a time when there is already severe pressure on general schools funding.

‘This risks creating a perfect storm, where not only does this mean schools can’t provide the extra support pupils with SEND need, but it means other pupils and teachers suffer the consequences of funding being squeezed on a daily basis, by not getting the support in the classroom that they need.

‘As our interim research shows, there is a significant shortfall in funding, which we urge the Government to address in next month’s Local Government Finance Settlement and we are keen to work with ministers to bring this about.’

More to come
This analysis is based on interim research, carried out by the Isos Partnership, which shows that for the 73 local authorities that have responded to the survey, there is a total deficit of £280 million by the end of 2018/19. Scaled up, the LGA says it could translate to a national deficit of £536 million. This compares to a similarly projected national deficit for 2017/18 of £267 million. These findings will be followed by a full and final report. More information here


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