A crisis in support for children with special educational needs and disabilities could result in a £1.6bn funding shortfall and a surge in parents resorting to legal action for help, the Observer can reveal.
The latest figures come as the government announces that it is providing an extra £350m to ease the crisis over the next two years, amid growing demand for specialist support and facilities for children with complex needs.
Council chiefs are warning that the extra funds fall well short of the emergency cash injection required. There is now a potential funding gap of £1.6bn by 2020-21, according to new research from the Local Government Association (LGA). The analysis forecasts that the current deficit could double to an estimated £806m next year based on past trends.
New figures reveal there has been a 20% increase in special education needs tribunal appeals against council decisions since last year. Parents are also winning the vast majority of cases. There were 5,679 appeals during the 2017-18 academic year, with almost half being submitted in relation to a child with autism. Tribunals settled 2,298 cases, with parents winning 66% of them.
Senior council figures are also concerned that some schools are excluding pupils in order to pass the costs on to local authorities. Latest figures show a 66% increase in exclusions, from 4,630 in 2012-13 to 7,720 in 2016-17. Around 42% of excluded children in 2016-17 had some form of special educational needs. Recent legislation also stated that councils had to be responsible for the costs of educating young people beyond the age of 16.
The LGA now wants a national review of special needs provision, including measures to ensure schools, councils, and health and social care all share costs associated with it.
Amanda Spielman, the head of Ofsted, welcomed the announcement, but said: “Our inspections show that we still have a long way to go before children and young people with special needs are getting all the support they deserve. We are halfway through our inspections of local areas and have just started to revisit areas where inspectors have identified significant concerns. We will continue to give real weight to the experience of children and young people with special needs in our inspections of schools.”
Read the full article Children in special needs education face £1.6bn cash shortfall
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