SEND funding arrangements consultation: Update
Hackney Council is set to work with parents, teachers and other stakeholders on proposals to ensure it can continue to deliver high quality provision for children and young people with special educational needs.
The announcement follows a consultation on proposals to introduce a new funding model.
We have listened to feedback during the consultation, and in useful meetings with parents and teachers, and as a result I will recommend to Cabinet next month that we do not to go forward with the proposed changes. Instead we will work together to find a way to ensure pupils with SEND continue to receive the support they need, but in a way that is sustainable in the long term. The consultation was beginning of this dialogue with parents/carers.
Across the country, SEND services have been chronically underfunded by central government for many years. Local councils have been having to subsidise their SEND services from reserves or other budget areas, but such arrangements are becoming increasingly untenable in the face of continued Government cuts. Last year, across London, there was a shortfall of £100m.
In Hackney, the 2017/18 shortfall in SEND funding is around £6.1m. This is because of increased demand on the service, a rise in SEND pupil numbers because of changes to legislation, and rising costs against a government funding freeze since 2011/12.
The Mayor and I have campaigned hard to highlight the Council’s concerns over what we are calling a ‘hidden education funding crisis’. We urged Ministers to look at adequate and sustainable ways of funding SEND students so they can receive the services they need and deserve.
In October I wrote to the Secretary of State for Education urging the DfE to review SEND funding, specifically looking at how this vital funding is calculated and distributed, so it takes into account the growth in demand alongside actual spend. The response, from a junior minister, made it clear that the Government has no interest in providing adequate support for society’s most vulnerable children.
We have sought to protect the SEND budgets by using the Hackney Learning Trust reserves and making savings elsewhere in the education budget. But this approach is not a sustainable and we need to find a way forward. The consultation on the funding arrangements presented options to help resolve some of these pressures.
The Council’s aspiration has always been to balance the need to sustain SEND funding, work collaboratively with parents, teachers and other stakeholders and continue delivering higher quality provision. Following feedback, we have agreed to halt the decision in order to establish a SEND funding Task and Finish group with relevant stakeholders to look at how to develop SEND funding arrangements for the future.
We are committed to supporting all the SEND children and their families in our borough. It is our hope that a co-production process, which engages with all stakeholders, can deliver policy proposals that reflect the current SEND situation in the borough and continue the high level of service we provide, whilst ensuring we can fulfil our financial obligations to all our residents.
We will continue to work alongside all our partners to keep the pressure on Government to properly support our SEND children and their parents, and urge residents to make their own voices heard in Whitehall too, whether that be writing a letter to the Education Secretary or organising a campaign.