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Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND)

Councils fund support for 430,000 children with complex special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), but are facing a funding gap of £600 million.

In 2021 there were 430,000 children and young people with education, health and care (EHC) plans or statements. These set out the support a child with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) should receive, funding through local councils.

SEND system recap

SEND review

Although we welcome the conclusion of the ongoing SEND review, it must take into consideration the importance of councils and a local approach. We would like to see:

  • A clearer, local accountability for educational outcomes for all children in a geographical area. This will avoid creating incentives to attract or exclude certain groups. Councils are ideally placed to lead local SEND systems – whilst we know that all partners will be working hard to provide effective and timely support – councils, as the accountable body, will need backstop powers/levers to ensure funding and support is delivered.

  • Decisions over the use of all relevant funding to be taken jointly by those responsible:
    • Schools
    • Councils
    • Clinical Commissioning Groups or Integrated Care Systems

This could involve pooled budgets involving existing school funding for SEND, the High Needs Budget of the council, and relevant NHS spending. It will be important to ensure transparency over funding and parent/carer involvement, and a clear Ofsted/CQC role to hold the whole system jointly to account.

  • A reduction in the reliance on tribunals, as well as ensuring that where tribunals are used, judges take account of the value for money when making decisions. Some councils have developed or are using independent mediation to reduce the use of tribunals and we would like to see all areas use such an approach and involve people with relevant expertise and experience, such as
    • Ex-SEND officers
    • Health Reps
    • Teachers with experience of the system
    • Parents with experience of the system

  • Councils will need certainty of funding in a new SEND system, as well as during the transition period when reforms are legislated for and implemented. The Department for Education should also work with councils to manage down and eliminate their high needs deficits.