Town hall chiefs have warned that councils may not be able meet their legal duties to support children with special educational needs and disabilities despite the Government announcing a new multi-million pound support package.
The Department for Education (DfE) today revealed it will spend £50m to create additional school places and state-of-the-art facilities for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
The Government claims the cash will create around 740 more special school places and provide new equipment to support children with complex needs, such as sensory rooms and playgrounds with specialist equipment.
Over half of councils in England can expect to receive more than £225,000 to increase places or improve schools for children with SEND, and every local authority will get at least £115,000.
However, Coun Richard Watts, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, called for an urgent review into funding to meet an “unprecedented rise in demand for support from children with special needs”.
Coun Watts said: “Councils have been clear that there is a need to provide additional and ongoing funding to support children with special educational needs and disabilities so we are pleased that they will receive this additional funding.
“However this should not be a one-off cash injection and needs to be significant, on-going and sustainable funding, otherwise councils may not be able to
meet their statutory duties and many of these children could miss out on a mainstream education.”
The announcement follows a special report by The Yorkshire Post last month which outlined how families with SEND children and schools in the region were struggling to cope with the soaring pressures of cuts.
But the DfE said the latest announcement brings its investment in new school places for children with additional needs to £265m, following the announcement of a £215m funding package last year.
Children and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi said the new funds “will help to create thousands more school places across the country, with a clear focus on transforming the experience” of children with SEND.
Gail Walshe, head of parent carer participation at Contact, a charity for families with disabled children, said she welcomed any measure that will help “inclusion of children with additional needs in mainstream schools”.
The Yorkshire Post reported in April how cash-strapped councils’ plans to change policies had hit young people with SEND, such as those in need of local authority-organised transport.
Across North Yorkshire, it was reported, there had been a dramatic rise in the number of youngsters on complex health plans in the past two years, and the county council was set to overspend by £4m by 2018/19.
Around 40,000 more “good school places” for all pupils in primary and secondary schools will be created with £680m, the Government has said.
The Department for Education made the announcement today at the same time that it publicised new figures showing that 91 per cent of school places created last year were in schools rated “good” or “outstanding” by the education watchdog Ofsted.
It will build on the 825,000 new school places created since 2010, the department said.
The Government said it is investing more than £23 billion in schools by 2021.