Call to government for more support for SEND pupils

Newham’s councillors call on the Government to take urgent action on funding for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

Newham’s councillors have called on the Government to take urgent action on how it funds children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) after they agreed a three-year recovery plan to tackle a budget overspend.

The money for children with SEND, known as the High Needs Block, is provided to Newham by the Government and was overspent by £9.7m at the end of 2019/2020. Newham, along with many other local authorities who have also overspent this budget, is required to produce a recovery plan to address it.

The decision taken by Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz and Cabinet members means the Council will change how it allocates money to mainstream schools for pupils with SEND.

Councillor Julianne Marriott, Cabinet member for education, said: “The reality of this overspend exposes the Government’s chronic under-funding of our most vulnerable children. Last year the Education Select Committee confirmed what we and other local authorities have been saying for years, that we are being set up to fail our most vulnerable children and young people. Funding from the Government needs to match the needs of our children.”

The Cabinet decision, as well as tackling the overspend, means there will now be a more transparent match between the individual needs of children with SEND and the funding schools receive to support them. In addition SEND funding will now move with a child or young person if they move to a new school during the school year.

The pressure on Newham is not unique. The National Audit Office reported that eight in ten local authorities overspent their schools high-needs budget in 2017/2018.

The first £6,000 of support for a pupil with SEND comes from the school itself. Schools can access ‘top-up’ funding from the High Needs Block where the cost of meeting the needs of a pupil exceeds £6,000. Until now, the top-up funding was allocated at either £11,100 or £22,500.

The two very wide funding bands meant the high needs funding a pupil received did not always correspond closely to the child’s identified needs. The recovery plan agreed by Cabinet has four funding bands of between £4,000 and £22,000, and the decision on which band to allocate will be determined by the Education and Health and Care Plan (EHCP) created for each child.

Last year the Council provided an additional £1.3m a year for three years from its own funds so more children could receive EHC plans. This led to 545 of the personal plans being completed in 2019, more than in the previous five years together.

Councillor Marriott added: “I’m proud that Newham is one of the most inclusive boroughs in the country and we want to keep it that way. With more children having an EHCP plan, the Council can determine funding for each child in a more transparent way than we have so far.”

The recovery plan was agreed after a public consultation earlier this year. It is estimated that the change to how funding is allocated will generate a saving of around £5 million.

Councillor Marriott added: “While the Government provided a one off extra payment last year, this was nowhere near enough to cover the budget deficit. The Government has said they are going to carry out a SEND review and that can’t happen fast enough.

“This Government has completely underfunded and undermined both schools and local authorities. I want to publicly thank our schools who have done an amazing job during the Covid-19 crisis and I call on the Government to urgently demonstrate its support for our schools and properly fund them and our most vulnerable children.”

Published: 15 Jun 2020