Many of the most significantly affected authorities and therefore communities referenced here are rural. This story tells us:
Councils in England, facing a funding shortfall of more than half a billion pounds for educating children with special needs, are planning spending cuts and service reviews, according to figures compiled by the Observer.
Campaigners fear children could lose some of their support as local authorities try to clear yawning historical deficits, with government rules stopping them using other reserves to help to fund the special educational needs and disabilities (Send) system.
Figures covering 131 of England’s 151 “upper tier” local authorities show the combined forecast “overspend” on high needs budgets comes to £503m for the 2020-21 financial year.
The figures were obtained from freedom of information requests and council documents, and show forecasts made late in the financial year.
Surrey council confirmed it overspent its high needs budget by £35m in 2020-21, and is forecasting a further overspend of £24m in 2021-22. Kent forecast an overspend of £35.8m in 2020-21, and 14 other councils forecast overspends of £10m to £18m.
Cambridgeshire has a forecast deficit of £13.7m in 2020-21. It is planning to reduce top-up funding for Send children in mainstream schools, as well as launching a variety of reviews covering individual support packages. A council spokesperson said: “In addition to the continuing rise in the number of education, health and care plans (EHCPs) being allocated to those in need, we are seeing an increase in the complexity of need among our children and young people. Our funding allocation is not sufficient to adequately match the increase in demand.”