UK County Councils warn of £ 1.3 billion deficit for special education needs | Special educational needs
County councils in England are warning of a £ 1.3 billion deficit for special education needs that threatens to derail their finances and undermine the ability to support recovery efforts after the pandemic.
They say the total deficit is expected to increase eightfold in just five years due to an “explosion” in the number of children in need of additional support and they warn they face “a financial cliff edge”
A survey by the County Councils Network (CCN) and the Society of County Treasurers shows that the combined deficit of 40 authorities fell from £ 134m in 2018-19 to £ 1.3bn in 2022-2023.
SCC calls for an injection of additional funds into the next expenditure review to help bring the deficits down to a manageable level. It also urges the government to complete and publish its much-anticipated review of provisions for children with special educational needs and disabilities (Send), put in place in 2019 to address issues of capacity, funding and child support. .
Local authorities have seen spending for children with Send rise sharply in recent years due to legislative changes in 2014 that extended their responsibilities for young people up to the age of 25.
The number of young people benefiting from an education, health and care scheme (EHCP) has also increased, from 354,000 in 2019 to more than 430,000 in 2021. These legally binding documents guarantee support services for the most needy children.
Faced with the pressure on the budgets, the government authorized the municipalities to postpone the deficits until 2023, which allowed to breathe but is “little more than a band-aid”, according to the CCN.
Keith Glazier, spokesperson for the CCN for children and youth, said: “We have a statutory and moral obligation to support these young people, but local authorities are running large deficits.
“With limited options and a lack of available funding, we are sidelined and faced with a financial cliff in two years when these deficits are on our budget books and need to be corrected. This could mean that we are taking funds from other services or money from our pandemic recovery efforts. “
Tim Oliver, head of Surrey County Council, said his authority had seen a “massive” increase in the number of EHCPs with 10,000 children now fully funded. “As we speak today we have an accumulated deficit of over £ 85million.
“We have children who cost hundreds of thousands of pounds a year to support them. We have a legal obligation to do so, but I’m afraid it’s just not financially viable.
A spokesperson for the Department of Education said: “We announced the largest increase in funding for schools in a decade and increased funding for high needs boards to provide services to families and children with educational needs. specials and disabilities to over £ 8 billion this year – an increase of almost a quarter over two years.