Northumberland to get share of £700million pot to help children with special educational needs

Council bosses in Northumberland are anticipating a multimillion-pound funding boost next year for children with special educational needs.

By Ben O'Connell
Sunday, 6th October 2019, 8:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 8th October 2019, 4:33 pm
Northumberland County Council's County Hall
Northumberland County Council's County Hall

The Department for Education has this week issued operational guidance for the High Needs funding for 2020-21, which indicated the minimum per pupil funding increases.

This follows the Government’s announcement at the end of August of an extra £700million for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), however, it won’t be until towards the end of the current year that the local authority has firm figures for Northumberland’s settlement.

The news of the increase came as the council’s family and children’s services committee received an update at its meeting on Thursday (October 3) on the response to the county’s SEND inspection last year.

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As previously reported, this joint inspection of Northumberland’s provision by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC), which took place last October, raised ‘significant concerns about the effectiveness of the local area’.

The report, published in December, concluded that a written statement of action (WSOA) must be produced to explain how the local area will tackle three ‘areas of significant weakness’.

Northumberland’s WSOA was approved in March this year by Ofsted and the CQC and since then, two monitoring visits have concluded that progress is being made.

A letter received from the then Children and Families Minister, Nadhim Zahawi, following the June visit, said: ‘I am reassured by feedback from my officials about your commitment to working at pace to improve services and that you are working collectively with partners – including families – on the Written Statement of Action’.

Northumberland will receive another visit from the CQC and Ofsted about 18 months from the date the WSOA was approved – around this time next year.

Meanwhile, on a national level, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found that children with SEND ‘are increasingly being failed by the system designed to support them’.

In a report about the education, health and care plan (EHCP) process, published on Friday (October 4), the Ombudsman has revealed it is now upholding nearly nine out of every 10 (87%) cases it investigates, compared with its uphold rate of 57% across all cases it looks at, discounting SEND.

Responding to this report, the chairman of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, Coun Judith Blake, said: “This report supports our long-term concerns that councils are in danger of being unable to meet their statutory duties for children with special educational needs.

“While we are pleased the Government has announced an additional £700million for children with special educational needs, without certainty over funding for the future the situation will get worse as the number of children who need support continues to increase.

“There are currently 354,000 pupils with EHCPs – which state the support a child with SEND can receive, and is a 11 per cent increase since last year.

“This is why we are also pleased the Government plans to review the system and will work with them to get a clear picture of what more can be done to make sure vulnerable children can get the best support possible.”