Councils warn of SEND costs 'breaking' their budgets

County Councils have warned that the costs of special educational needs (SEND) services are threatening to break their budgets. The County Councils Network (CCN) says the 36 councils it represents have seen a rise of 46% in the number of young people with Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs). This equates to almost 10,000 extra each year in the number of young people being granted EHCPs since 2014, creating substantial extra costs for those councils. Some areas have seen increases of 90%, which has led to huge overspends in budgets for SEN, which has led to costs ‘spiralling out control’ and impacting on the quality of services.

CCN says that 27 county local authorities recorded a combined overspend of £123m in just twelve months in 2018-19 on their high needs block, which is a specific grant for children with special educational needs. With those councils already facing a cumulative funding gap of £21.5bn over the next six years, county leaders warn that these continued overspends could ‘break’ their budgets.

In the last two years, the number of inspections of a councils’ SEND department from the Care Quality Commission and Ofsted which resulted a written warning increased dramatically over the last three years – from 27% of all inspections in 2016/17 to 63% of all inspections in 2017/18. According to Ofsted, local area assessments have seen a continuing lack of coordinated 0–25 strategies and poor post-19 provision.

County leaders have called on the new government to recognise the additional pressures on budgets that the change in legislation has led to and to provide an immediate injection of funds for SEND to ease the burden on councils next year.

There have been a number of organised demonstrations by parent groups recently with a national day of action at the end of May. A number of local authorities have faced legal action b y parent groups that say that they are nopt meeting their legal duties. Three families have recently launched legal action against the Government accusing it of failing to give adequate funding to local authorities who are responsible for SEND provision.