SEND overspending triples in three years

Dozens of councils are having to cut budgets or move money to cope with funding pressures

Helen Ward

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Children with special educational needs are at the centre of a funding crisis which is affecting councils across the country, it was reported today.

Council overspending on children’s special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) has trebled in just three years.

Authorities have already had to use hundreds of millions from their overall schools budget to support children with SEND, The Observer reports. It has also identified 40 councils that have either cut special needs funding this year, are considering making cuts or are raiding other education budgets to cope next year.

The report, based on freedom of information requests and council reports from 117 of England’s 152 councils, shows that the combined overspend on high-needs education budgets among councils in England rose from £61 million in 2015-16 to £195 million in 2017-18.
A number of legal cases from parents battling planned cuts by councils have already been launched.

And Anntoinette Bramble, chair of the Local Government Association’s children and young people’s board, said that the new figures emphasised “the significant financial challenges” councils are facing.

Tes revealed last year that reforms to the SEND funding system involving a cap on increases meant that pupils with complex SEND would miss out on £124 million of extra money.

The high-needs cash for pupils with SEND would have been distributed to schools across 52 local authorities as part of the money they were due under the new government national funding formula, which began in 2018.

It would have led to double-digit funding increases for 15 areas, the Tes analysis revealed.

But the increases were capped at 3 per cent because the Department for Education said that it needed to keep the introduction of the funding system “affordable”.

Nadhim Zahawi, the children’s minister, said today that the government recognised “local authorities are facing cost pressures on high needs” and that overall funding was being kept under review.

He added: “In 2018-19 councils will receive £6 billion of funding specifically for children with complex special educational needs and disabilities, up from £5 billion in 2013.”

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