SEND duties ‘increasing pressure on councils’

19 Jul 19
The expansion of special educational needs duties has left councils facing a “financial crisis”, council leaders have warned.

Analysis from the County Councils Network has found 27 English councils racked up a combined £123m overspend on their grant for children with special educational needs in 2018-19.

In 2014 the minimum age limit for councils to care for those with SEN was raised from 19 to 25 and this has created “substantial extra costs” for councils, CCN said.

The 36 councils CCN represents have seen a rise of 46% in the number of pupils on education, health and care plans – almost 10,000 extra each year since the introduction of new duties under the Children and Families Act 2014.

Some areas have seen increases of around 90% in the number of young people on plans, leading to “huge” overspends and a deterioration of other services. East Riding of Yorkshire’s caseloads rose by 90%, while Somerset soared by 87%.

According to CCN’s analysis of government figures, the number of young people on EHCPs has risen from 240,183 in 2015 to 353,995 in 2019.

Carl Les, CCN children’s services and education spokesman, said: “The government’s reforms in the Children and Families Act five years ago were well intentioned and we support increasing the age range and the extra parental choice.

“However, these reforms have led to additional demand, which has created a financial crisis for some local authorities, with huge rises seeing costs spiral out of control.

“Counties already face a funding gap of £21.5bn over the next five years and if we continue to overspend at the level we have done it will break many of our budgets.”

A DfE spokesperson said: “We know that costs are rising in areas of the country, which is causing challenges for local authorities, and we are aware of the pressures on school budgets more generally, including the increasing costs of making provision for children with more complex needs.

“We are looking carefully at how much funding for education will be needed in future years, as we approach the next spending review.”

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