DfE announces further £45m for SEND reforms

By Joe Lepper

| 01 December 2017

Councils will be provided with a further £45m in funding to ensure they can meet the looming deadline for overhauling support for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), the Department for Education has said.

All children with a statement of special education needs need to be assessed and transferred onto an education, health and care (EHC) plan by April 2018. Picture: NTI

By April 2018 all children with a statement of special education needs have to be assessed and transferred to a new system of education, health and care (EHC) plans. The reforms were introduced in September 2014 through the Children and Families Act (2014) with the aim of better linking up support across agencies.

However, DfE figures released in May show that, as of January this year, many councils were still struggling to transfer to the new system, with 112,057 children still with SEN statements.

It is not the first time the government has unveiled extra funding to ensure local areas are able to implement SEND reforms.

In June 2014 then children's minister Edward Timpson announced a £76m funding package, amid concerns that councils were struggling to be ready to meet the April 2018 deadline. The funding was spread across two years with local authorities receiving £45.2m in 2014/15 and £31.7m in 2015/16.

The latest package of funding includes £29m to help councils and other agencies involved in SEN support to help implement the reforms.

It also includes £9.7m to set up local "internship forums", to create work experience placements for young people with SEND and help them gain paid employment. This includes hiring specialist job coaches to support young people with learning difficulties find work.

In addition, £4.6m will be used to support parent carer forums, to link up parents and carers with agencies to ensure they have a stronger voice in local decision making around SEND.

Children's minister Robert Goodwill admitted that more work needs to be done to ensure SEND reform is embedded across all areas.

"Councils are making encouraging progress, but there is still work to be done to fully embed this improved system across education, health and care sectors," said Goodwill.

"That's why I am pleased to announce this additional investment for councils and other groups who have been instrumental in getting us to this positive stage.

"Their hard work is raising the aspirations of these young people and giving them access to the same opportunities as their peers, helping them fulfil their full potential as adults."

National Children's Bureau director of practice and programmes Annamarie Hassall has welcomed the extra funding and its focus on helping young people with SEND find work.

"The funding announced today will help more children with disabilities and special educational needs get the support they need to live normal lives in their home communities," she said.

"In particular, we welcome funding for internships, which will provide young people with valuable work experience as they make the transition to adulthood."

Latest DfE figures show that there has been a record increase in the number of children receiving additional support for SEND, with the number of those with a statement or EHC plan in place rising by more than 30,000 between January 2016 and January 2017.

Earlier this year the Labour Party said it would scrap EHC plans and replace them with a new system. Its manifesto ahead of the June general election said the system of EHC plans is flawed and restricts access to support.

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