English county councils warn of £1.3bn special educational needs deficit

Wednesday 30 June 2021

Tags: education, disabled children's partnership, special educational needs, spending review, send funding

Some of England’s largest councils have today called for urgent action in this year’s government spending review to address a spiralling deficit for special educational needs (SEN) services – a deficit which is set to grow to £1.3bn in just two years’ time.

Local authorities say that the deficit is the result of a rise in young people being eligible for Education, Care, and Health (EHC) plans. They add that the deficit threatens their ability to support recovery efforts after the pandemic.

The report, from the County Councils Network (CCN) and the Society of County Treasurers, shows that for 40 authorities, their high-needs deficits have gone up from £134m in 2018/19 to a projected £1.3bn in 2022/23.

Although the government has said that councils don’t need to start addressing these deficits until 2023, the councils say the size of the deficit in two years’ time will be unmanageable. This, they say, will make it extremely difficult to pay off without taking large sums of money earmarked for other council services. CNN are calling for this to be addressed in the government’s spending review later this year with substantial funding into the system.

Amanda Batten,  Contact’s CEO says: “The system of support for children with SEND in schools has been under strain for some time now. The pandemic, and the challenging financial environment that local authorities continue to face, has increased this strain with children with SEND and their families bearing the brunt. 

“That’s why Contact, as part of the Disabled Children’s Partnership, is calling to plug the funding gap to better support the education, health and care needs of disabled children in school and at home.  The government’s spending review this autumn is an opportunity to not only fund recovery properly, but to go further.

“The government must commit to funding the £434 million pre-pandemic gap in disabled children’s social care services. This way they will have the best possible chance to live a healthy and happy life in a post-Covid world.”