The rising need for SEN support is causing county council costs to get out of hand
As reported by the BBC, rising demand for SEN support is ‘breaking county council budgets’.
It’s even threatening the ability of these councils to meet their legal duties, as the number of support plans that have to be met has risen by 50% since 2014.
This is according to the County Councils Network, which surveyed 36 councils and found that SEN budgets overspent by at least £123m for the 2018-19 year.
One reason for the dramatic rise in need is that councils have had to support 19-25 year-olds with SEN – not just school-aged children.
Councillor Carl Les said the 2014 changes had caused costs to become almost unmanageable.
“As this huge increase in demand is unfunded, the cost burden has come from other service areas,” he said.
“Counties already face a funding gap of £21.5bn over the next five years – and if we continue to overspend at the level we have done, it will break many of our budgets.
“Many councils in the future may be unable to set a balanced budget, whilst others will have to reduce other budgets further, which would run the risk of not being able to deliver statutory duties.
“It is clear that the current system is not working effectively when nearly two-thirds of councils nationwide over the past year are not reaching the expected level of service in their special educational needs departments.”
A Department for Education spokesperson added: “We know that costs are rising in areas of the country, which is causing challenges for local authorities, and we are aware of the pressures on school budgets more generally, including the increasing costs of making provision for children with more complex needs.
“We are looking carefully at how much funding for education will be needed in future years, as we approach the next spending review.”