£80 million to boost support for Special Educational Needs

£80million for send On Friday, the Department for Education (DfE) announced that £80 million was to be made available to extend opportunities to children with special educational needs and disabilities.

The announcement stated:

A multi-million pound package ensuring thousands of children with special educational needs and disability (SEND) have the same opportunities as any other child has been announced today.

In addition, the government is also pledging to fund this work for an additional year in 2017 to 2018.

What does this actually mean for parents?

We, like many, were a little confused about the spending so we contacted the DfE and asked if they could clarify a few things for us.

£35.8 million in implementation funding for local authorities.

Some LAs are being provided with almost £1 million to help implement the additional duties.  A full list of who gets what can be found on the DfE website.  This £35.8 is an additional £4 million funding from last year.

However, it is not clear how the figure for each LA is calculated.  Kent comes top of the funding with £957,022 and the Isles of Scilly come in with just £20k.  Hopefully it is based on number of children with SEND in each LA - Kent does have a very large number - however, there is no real clarification of this.  The grant letter just states "The Minister of State determines the authorities to which grant is to be paid and the amount of grant to be paid."

What would be really useful, for families, is to see how that money is being spent by each LA.   There will be some LAs who make every penny go a mile and those who won't.

£27.3 million for The Family Fund Trust:

We asked the DfE about this as, to be honest, we had no idea the Family Fund received funding from the DfE.  We were told by the DfE that they have been funding the Family Fund Trust for something like 40 years and that this £27.3 is maintaining recent levels.

For those not familiar with the Family Fund Trust, they are a charity offering small grants to families enabling them to purchase specific equipment or short breaks for the family.  They are a great organisation. You can check their website to see if you are eligible to apply for a grant 

£15 million to fund the Independent Supporters Programme

We again, were not clear if this was additional funding so we asked.  We were told that £15m for Independent Supports is maintaining the level of funding for another year.

Some families will be happy to see the funding continue as they have found them to be useful in certain aspects of the transfer to the new system.  This was something SNJ and other parent carers advised the DfE when they met last year at a SEND reform stock taking session.

National Evaluation of the Independent Support Programme:

The National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTi) also released their first report on the evaluation of the Independent Supporters last week too.  You can read about the Evaluation and download the report on the NDTi site.

A few of the conclusions of the report which jumped out to us are:

  1. "successful delivery of Independent Support is contingent on the adoption of person centred practices and decision making at all levels of the system and wider roll out of personalised options for support";
  2. "there is a negative impact on families/young people when IS and the wider system is not proactive or responsive. For example: Not staying in touch with families when they have been waiting for months (in some cases nearly a year) to hear the outcome of assessment and planning decisions. This isn’t just about the lack of contact from the IS service but from anyone including the statutory elements of the system ie decision makers. Families are telling us about having to chase and follow up to hear the outcome of these decisions and the impact when they hear negative news is overwhelming. They feel very alone."
  3. The added value of Independent Support is most often demonstrated through the experiences of parents who have experienced IS as a distinctly new resource, a focused capacity and access to enhanced support

So we are glad to see the funding continue.  Families need as much support as possible during the transition time and even though we know that IS is not something everyone uses or maybe it doesn't provide exactly what some families need; having it available is essential for many.

£2.3 million for Parent Carer Forums

As we have all been involved with Parent Carer Forums in our areas, we were aware that each PCF gets £15k per year from the DfE.  Again, we were unsure if this was an additional piece of funding or if this was the same funding as last year.  It was confirmed that this was the same £15k per forum as last year.

National Autistic Society:

The NAS contacted us to ask if we would share their statement about the SEN funding with our readers.  We are, of course, delighted to do so.

Sarah Lambert, Head of Policy at the National Autistic Society, said:

“Today’s announcement is welcome, particularly the £35.8m that's being committed to improve local implementation of the SEN reforms.

"The new SEN system has the potential to transform the prospects of a generation of children on the autism spectrum. But poor local implementation in some areas has meant that many parents are still facing long and stressful battles trying to get the right support for their child. The funding unveiled today is recognition of this problem and should help address it.

“The Government must now closely monitor how local authorities are coping with the changes so they can make sure that every child gets the quality education they deserve.

"Autism can have a profound effect on a child but we've seen again and again how the right support at the right time can make all the difference."

SNJ Thoughts:

We think there was some real confusion as the announcement made a few of us think this was an additional £80 million but from the figures we can see, it would seem that although it is a total of £80 million, it is in fact only an increase of £4 million from last year.  Maybe our maths are wrong.

Any additional funding is great and much needed.  However, the one thing families keep asking for is accountability.  Families are the people chasing the LA if there are delays (as the NDTi report highlights); it is families having to hold the schools, teaching staff, local authorities and health providers to account.

If it goes wrong, it is the family who has to go through the complaints system to highlight this.

The complaints system is often not very transparent or so arduous that families give up.

We would like to see funding going into a service that helps to ensure LAs, schools, health providers etc are held to account and comply with legislation without it being the responsibility of the family.

When the only right for families is to access the complaints procedure or a tribunal, often without legal representation or knowledge, is just not an even playing field is it.

Over to you.

If you had control of the DfE funds for a year, what would you spend the money on and why.   Be creative, if you had £80 million to spend in one year to extend opportunities to children with SEN and Disabilities, how would you spend it?  What do you think would make the biggest difference?  We would love to hear.

We will do a post on the responses we get in late February so get your thinking caps on.

See the results of this survey here

Debs Aspland
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