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Another £45 million spent on SEND implementation

View profile for Laura Parratt
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The Department for Education (DfE) has announced a further £45 million for SEND services

The package of support worth nearly £45 million is to provide additional help for children with special educational needs (SEN) and disabilities. But will that really benefit children and young people with SEND?

Robert Goodwill, Minister for Children and Families said that he is “pleased to announce this additional investment for councils and other groups who have been instrumental in getting us to this positive stage”.

The package of support will include:

  • £29m to support councils and their local partners to implement the reforms to the SEND system
  • £9.7m to establish local supported internship forums, which will create work placements for young people with SEND
  • £4.6m for Parent Carer Forums, which bring parents together with local decision makers and help to provide them with a voice in the process.

Whilst this may sound encouraging, it is difficult to see how this funding will effectively be utilised considering the DfE have already pumped over £295m into the SEND system since January 2016, and we are yet to see any significant signs of improvement within the system.  This further £40m boost is simply going to be wasted.

Whilst the bullet points above clearly earmark where these funds are supposed to go, it is concerning that the proposal does not set aside any new money to support children with SEND in schools. It is also clear that this new grant is not ring-fenced; Local Authorities have discretion to spend their £29m how they see fit.

This precise issued was raised in October 2017 by a number of head teachers in Newham, London. They raised serious concerns when they discovered that £7m of the SEND budget was being used to expand two schools. This is clearly not an justifiable amount to be taken from SEND funding, but unfortunately this is the reality of the situation.

It has recently been reported that Local Authorities have spent between £50m - £60m on defending Tribunal appeals since 2014. It is worth noting that around 90% of appeals are still successful, meaning that money has been spent trying to parent young people accessing the support they need and are entitled to. Perhaps if the focus was genuinely  on putting families at the heart of the system, like the DfE’s intention in implementing the new SEND reforms, the money could be better spent on delivering provision, rather than denying it.

Unfortunately, funding is an issue that we as SEN experts are all too familiar with, and we are yet to see any change in the Local Authority’s approach to parents since all of this funding has been provided.

If you are experiencing difficulties in relation to securing additional support for your child from the Local Authority, then please do not hesitate to contact our specialist education law solicitors team on 02920 291704.

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