“The pandemic has taken its toll on children and young people, including their education and social routines, but this disruption has been worse for those with special educational needs and disabilities"
Children and young people need to be at the heart of the national recovery, especially those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) whose lives have been particularly affected by repeated lockdowns and school disruption during the pandemic, the Local Government Association urges today.
The LGA, which represents councils in England and Wales and is holding its Virtual Annual Conference this week, says local authorities and schools have worked hard on education recovery during COVID-19 to ensure that no child is left behind.
However, it says there needs to be a much greater focus on pupils with SEND who typically face a longer time to recover lost learning than other pupils and whose needs will become greater and more complex the longer it takes for the Government to publish and implement its review of the SEND system.
Providing support for children and young people with SEND is one of the biggest challenges that councils are currently dealing with. Demand for statements and Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans has soared by 480 per cent in the past five years, from 74,209 in 2016 to 430,697 in 2021.
Many councils have previously been forced to overspend on their high needs budgets due to increasing demand for support. These pressures have been recognised by the Government which has increased high needs funding for councils over the last two years – an additional £780 million in 2020/21, compared to 2019/20 funding levels, and a further £730 million in 2021/22.
The LGA is calling on government to publish its review of the SEND system as soon as possible. It says the review needs to set out reforms that increase mainstream inclusion and provides councils with long-term certainty of funding to meet the needs of all children with SEND.
The LGA also says a cross-government strategy is needed that puts children and young people at the heart of the national recovery to ensure every child can thrive, with local safety nets properly resourced and well organised.
Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said:
“The pandemic has taken its toll on children and young people, including their education and social routines, but this disruption has been worse for those with SEND.
“The SEND review is a great opportunity to improve the lives of children and young people and their families by shaping a reformed system, but the delay in publishing it means that issues will only continue to grow.
“While we appreciate the need for the review to be well-thought through and not published in a hurry, delaying it creates real consequences for children in terms of their support and development.
“A cross-Whitehall strategy is needed that puts children and young people, particularly those with SEND, at the heart of recovery and ensures the services that support children and their families are fully funded so the younger generation can lead more enriched and fulfilling lives as we emerge from the pandemic.”
‘A child-centred recovery’ – LGA publication
Build back local: Build back better – LGA publication