Leader of Dorset Council, Spencer Flower, has written to the Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds MP, asking for the Government to take urgent action to address the national crisis around for funding for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
The call comes after parents and children from Dorset handed over a petition today with more than 500 signatures. Councillors and officers spoke with parents at their march, listened to their heart-felt pleas and agree that more funding is needed to support children with special educational needs and disabilities.
Cllr Flower says that without additional money from Government, councils face an ‘impossible position.’ Dorset Council is responsible for creating education, health and care plans (EHCP) for children and young people aged up to 25 with SEND who need additional support. Since 2013, Dorset has seen a 67 per cent increase in EHCPs, but only a 7 per cent increase in funding.
Dorset’s challenges also include a loss of £90m funding through the central Government’s Revenue Support Grant, even though South Dorset is recognised as the lowest rated area in the country for social mobility and has some of the highest levels of deprivation, SEND and social isolation.
Dorset also has a historic £14.8m deficit in the High Needs Block (the funding from Dedicated Schools Grant that supports children with SEND ) and has been forced to ask schools to move money from their mainstream budgets to help tackle the issue. Cllr Flower says that, even with an additional £5m built into the children’s budget after local Government re-organisation, there is not sufficient headroom to either address the historic deficit or fund any additional demands from the Department of Education and Skills. Cllr Flower says the only way the problem can be addressed is through additional Government funding. He said:
“We absolutely share parents’, and schools’, concerns about SEND funding in Dorset, and agree that there is a national crisis. The Government needs to re-think its policy and take action, so we can give children and young people the support they need and deserve. I’d like to reassure our schools, parents, children and young people that we will press for adequate funding.”
The council has also invited the Secretary of State to come and visit Dorset and see the impact that the current funding model has on children, young people, parents and schools.