Councils across Yorkshire and the Humber are making an urgent appeal to Government to fund provision fully for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities.
Council leaders across the region say the system is buckling and are calling on both the Chancellor and Secretary for Education to ensure that a full funding increase becomes a top priority for the next spending review to stem spiralling overspending.
Yorkshire and the Humber councils, like many others nationally, are experiencing unprecedented and increasing demand on their special educational needs and disability budget and have a collective overspend this year of nearly £42.7 million with plans to use over £32 million from reserves as well as transferring over £10 million from already struggling school budgets.
In the four previous years from 2014/15 through to 2017/18 councils spent nearly £86 million more than they received in funding, drew on their reserves by over £44 million and top sliced nearly £42m from schools budgets.
This crisis has developed because the Government introduced legislative reform in 2014 which supported children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities through new Education and Health Care Plans, increasing the age range and demands on budgets, without increasing the finance available.
Moreover the numbers of children and young people with Education and Health Care Plans continues to rise. There has been a 46 per cent increase regionally in the number of such Plans since the reform was introduced in 2014 and the rate of increase shows no signs of slowing.
While councils welcomed the reforms and the improved support and recognition for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities, they urgently need the Government to meet the funding demand.
County Councillor Carl Les, North Yorkshire’s Leader said: “Unless the Government agrees in the spending review to fund special educational needs provision fully, council overspending in this area will increase further and become totally unsustainable. The system will buckle.
“We are diverting money urgently needed for other vital services as well as seeking to move money from mainstream schools when they are already struggling with their budgets. This cannot go on.”
Cllr Judith Blake, Leeds City Council Leader said: “The Government has dealt a poor hand to the some of the nation’s most vulnerable children and young people and we are now demanding they give this crisis their urgent attention.
“Supporting children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities is one of the most important jobs that we do but the burden of this funding can no longer be placed on councils who have felt the full effect of austerity.”