SEND

Nine more councils told to reform SEND services in return for £300m

But cash comes with strict conditions such as keeping more children in mainstream schools

But cash comes with strict conditions such as keeping more children in mainstream schools



Nine more councils have been told to make sweeping reforms to their special needs and disabilities (SEND) support in exchange for over £300 million to fill budget black holes. 

The Department for Education has reached deals with nine local authorities, on top of the first five councils who secured “safety valve” bailouts last year.

Councils have an estimated £2.3 billion in high needs funding deficits. The government cash aims to ease struggles, but comes with strict conditions.

Surrey will receive £100 million by 2026-27 to eliminate their deficit, with an initial payment of £40.5 million before the end of this financial year. 

But it must “reduce the escalation of need and push to move” children into specialist provision, by instead developing the skills of mainstream staff to support children with SEND.

Dorset will be handed £42 million by 2025-26. But it must reduce the “likelihood” that a child will require a “specialist placement as they grow older” by focusing on early identification and “intervention strategies”. 

Rotherham has been told to reduce the use of independent specialist provision out of the area in return for £20 million by 2025-26. 

York should “manage demand appropriately” by supporting more children in mainstream and “appropriate and timely ceasing” of education, health and care plans. This is for £17.1 million over five years. 

The remaining agreements are with Hillingdon, Kirklees, Merton, Salford and South Gloucestershire.

SEND review due next week

Safety valve funding is targeted at councils with large deficits in their dedicated schools grant budget.

The agreements aim to “hold the local authorities to account for delivery of reforms to their high needs systems, so that they can function sustainably and therefore in the best interests of the children and young people they serve”.

If conditions are not met, DfE said it “will not hesitate to withhold payments”. 

Councils with less severe deficits have been invited to apply for support under the new Delivering Better Value programme, which critics worry is a cost-cutting exercise. 

DfE said it wants to “secure sustainable management” of high needs systems locally “with support and intervention tailored to the severity of the problems authorities are facing”. 

It comes as the long-delayed SEND review is due to be published next week.



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