DfE puts more money into SEND reforms

On 29 January 2016 the DfE announced that it would be putting more money into the special educational needs and disability (SEND) reforms. The additional funding is £80 million.

The funding breaks down as follows:

  • £35.87 million to local authorities to help with their additional duties following the SEND reforms
  • £27.3 million to the Family Fund trust
  • £15 million to the Independent Supporters Programme
  • £2.3 million to the Parent Carer Forums

What are the reforms?

Since September 2014, all local authorities in England have been required to implement the Children and Families Act 2014. This Act was described as the biggest change to special educational needs support for a decade.

The Act introduced a holistic support network for children with special educational needs (SEN). It created the Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) which details all the education, health and care provision a child needs as a result of their SEN. This document replaces the old Statement of SEN. Both documents are legally binding and detail the support for a child’s SEN.

The other key changes are:

  • To raise the maximum age of SEN provision from 19 to 25;
  • To introduce general principles, the most significant being that a child or young person should be supported to achieve their ‘best possible outcome’. This is a marked departure from the maxim of ‘adequacy’ which ran through the previous regime;
  • To require that local authorities (LAs) publish a Local Offer (LO), setting out the SEN provision available in its area and nearby;
  • To enable LAs to require Academies to admit children with SEN under their direction. Previously, Academies could refuse to do so unless directed to by the Secretary of State.

As such, health, education and social care are expected to work together and undertake substantial additional work at a time of unprecedented cuts. Whilst the Department for Education (DfE) has made some funding available for LAs, it is uncertain that agencies will be able to cope with this additional demand.

Why has this funding been given?

The reforms have not gone smoothly. We have written extensively herehereherehere and here about the significant difficulties with the reforms.

The Department for Education (DfE) has committed substantial additional funding to local authorities to ensure that the reforms are implemented successfully.

What has my local authority been given?

The amount of funding given to each local authority is detailed here.

The DfE have not provided any information about how this funding has been calculated. We have explored the figures and have prepared a document comparing the number of children and young people (CYP) with special educational needs (SEN) and the amount of further funding that has been provided.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE DOCUMENT

On the face of it, the funding allocation seems to broadly following the number of CYP with SEN in a particular region. For example, Kent, which has the most CYPs with SEN also received the most additional funding. However, when considered in terms of funding per CYP with SEN, Kent ranked 124th with its funding per CYP with SEN being £21.44, nearly 25% lower than the average.

There are, however, very significant variations which mean that the allocated funding has not followed purely the number of CYP with SEN in any given area. The average funding given per local authority per CYP with SEN is £27.68. Inner London local authorities have received up to £90 per CYP with SEN. The Isles of Scilly has received £500 per CYP with SEN.

The figures are slightly skewed because some local authorities, like The Isles of Scilly, have very few CYPs with SEN. As such, it is possible that the DfE have determined a ‘base line’ allocation of funding which all local authorities will receive irrespective of the number of CYPs with SEN.

There are notable variations, particularly local authorities receiving additional funding despite having fewer CYPs with SEN. For example:

  • Rotherham, with 8,533 pupils with SEN received £169,259
  • Tower Hamlets, with 7,985 pupils with SEN received £266,440

That means more additional funding for fewer pupils with SEN. The discrepancies even exist in the same region. For example:

  • Hampshire, with 30,042 pupils with SEN received £809,337
  • Surrey with 30,854 pupils with SEN received £720,348

Whilst the funding that has been made available will not go directly to CYP with SEN, this funding is for their benefit. The funding is to help with the implementation of the reforms. This would seem to cover the following:

  • Transition assessments from Statement to EHCP
  • Preparation and maintenance of Local Offer
  • Preparation and maintenance of Personal Budgets
  • Developing workable protocols so that health, education and social care can effectively work together.

Some of the above points are not affected by the number of CYP with SEN. For example, agencies need to be able to work together whether the local authority has one CYP with SEN or one thousand CYPs with SEN.

Looking at the figures, we have not been able to establish any clear understanding of the sums allocated. It seems, broadly, that more CYP with SEN the more funding a local authority will receive. That logic does not entirely hold up to scrutiny though. What considerations the DfE applied, therefore, when allocating the funding remains unclear.

It would be helpful, when allocating such large sums, for the DfE to set out its reasoning.

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