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Thursday, 15 November 2018

Special Educational Needs facing deficit of half a billion pounds, LGA warns

Written by Nina Massey

Support for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) is facing a potential funding gap of more than £500 million, the Local Government Association estimates.

The services in England face a projected shortfall of £536 million - more than double the gap they faced the previous year, according to interim findings of new LGA research.

Based on a survey of 73 councils - half of local authorities with SEND duties - there is a total deficit of £280 million by the end of 2018/19.

Unveiling the research at the National Children and Adult Services Conference in Manchester on Thursday, the LGA said that scaled up this could mean a national deficit of £536 million.

It is claiming that children with SEND could miss out on mainstream education if there is no urgent Government action to provide investment in the Local Government Finance Settlement next month.

The LGA further argues the deficit puts at risk the ability of councils to fulfil their statutory duties.

Its research indicates 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.

Councillor Anntoinette Bramble (pictured), chairwoman 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."

Children and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi said: "Our ambition for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) is exactly the same for every other child - to achieve well in education, and go on to live happy and fulfilled lives.

"This is why we've introduced Education Health and Care plans, tailored to each individual, to ensure they are supported while they study.

"Local authorities and schools have statutory duties to support children and young people with SEND.

"In 2018-19 councils will receive £6 billion of funding for young people with more complex SEND - an increase from £5 billion in 2013."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) LGA.