Safety Valve Agreements  -how they impact disabled children and their families

5 mins read

Thursday 16 May 2024

Tags: disability, special educational needs, Safety Valve agreements

What are Safety Valve agreements?

Some local authorities in England with large budget deficits have been signing up to Safety Valve agreements over the last three years. They get extra funding from government by agreeing to reduce their debts and manage their high needs funding in specific ways that the Department for Education requires. There are currently 38 local authorities with safety valve agreements.

Why we are concerned

Contact raised concerns about safety valve agreements with the Department for Education in 2023. We believe the agreements risk pushing local authorities to cut Special Educational Needs (SEN) funding. The agreements include a review system to ensure that financial targets are met, with little to no obligation to review how the cuts are made and if the Special Educational provision which remains is adequate to meet needs.

A report published by IPSEA at the weekend highlights the worrying consequence of the agreements. IPSEA’s report shows that the conditions attached to individual safety valve agreements are about cost cutting. As such there is a concern that they could lead to local authorities breaching their legal duties to children and young people with SEND.

The council documents from the safety valve areas that were examined by IPSEA all had references to:

The negative impact for children and young people with SEN

One of the first councils to sign up to a safety valve agreement has been condemned by inspectors over its “failing” SEND services.

Mainstream schools are also negatively impacted by these safety valve agreements, as in some areas there has been a reduction in the top-up funding that schools receive for pupils with SEND who do not have an EHCP. A headteacher of a secondary school in a safety valve area told tes magazine that this has  meant that the school is less inclusive. .

What we would like to see

We support IPSEA’s conclusion that safety valve agreements, which centre on cost cutting rather than the needs and legal rights of disabled children and young people, cannot be allowed to continue to exist in their current form.  Contact will be monitoring the situation closely and would love to hear from you if you have any experience. If you live in a Local Authority that has signed a safety valve agreement and have anything to share, please contact

Local authorities with Safety Valve agreements

Below is the list of Local Authorities with Safety Valve Agreements as of May 2024.

1.           Barnsley

2.           Bath & NE Somerset

3.           Bexley

4.           Blackpool

5.           Bolton

6.           Bracknell Forest,

7.           Bristol,

8.           Bury

9.           Cambridgeshire

10.         Croydon

11.         Darlington

12.         Devon

13.         Dorset

14.         Hammersmith & Fulham

15.         Haringey

16.         Hillingdon

17.         Hounslow

18.         Isle of Wight

19.         Kent

20.         Kingston-upon-Thames

21.         Kirklees

22.         Medway

23.         Merton

24.         Norfolk

25.         North Somerset

26.         North Tyneside

27.         Richmond-upon-Thames

28.         Rotherham

29.         Salford

30.         Slough

31.         South Gloucestershire

32.         Southwark

33.         Stoke-on-Trent

34.         Surrey

35.         Torbay

36.         Wiltshire

37.         Wokingham

38.         York