Government announces £250 million for council SEND budgets
The Education Secretary Damian Hinds has announced an additional £250 million to councils over the next two years to support children with Special Educational Needs (SEND).
The other £100 million will be used to create more specialist places in mainstream schools, with aim of giving more children and young people access to a good school or college place that meets their individual needs.
On top of this, more special free schools will get the green light, as Mr Hinds has confirmed that he will approve all high quality bids in the current round of special and alternative provision free schools applications, creating even more choice for parents.
Local authority education services will also be encouraged to work more closely with health and social care to commission local services through a new Leadership Board for SEND.
To better understand the financial incentives that influence how schools, colleges and councils support children and young people with special educational needs, the Department for Education will be gathering more evidence in the New Year. This will include looking at the first £6,000 schools pay for SEND support costs before accessing additional funding from local high needs budgets.
“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,” said Mr Hinds.
“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.”
A number of councils across the country have been struggling to meet the needs of SEND children in the face of ever-tightening budgets. In Bristol, the council was forced to reverse £5 million in savings to its SEND budget after a landmark High Court ruling. The challenge was brought by two families in which the judge ruled that the council should have consulted on the decision before it was made and that it was therefore unlawful.
Dame Christine Lenehan, Director of the Council for Disabled Children welcomed the announcement:
“This is a start, but only a start, in tackling the significant challenges faced by local areas and, importantly, children and families.
“We are pleased to see progress on the Leadership Board and look forward to it making a positive contribution to ensuring all local areas have access to the best of practice.”