£93 million more in SEND funding for respite, supported internships and making LAs do what they’re supposed to

We seem to have a tale of two governments at the moment or perhaps we are flipping between parallel universes. In one, the government is in a chaotic, cannibalistic mess with a dead-man-walking prime minister. In the other, big announcements are being made as if nothing is wrong at all. 

Today, the trumpeting will be all about the “Levelling Up” White Paper, from which yesterday came some early news about new cash for SEND.

What’s the SEND funding for?

The announcement about more SEND funding entailed £30 million for respite and £18 million for supported internships, both of which can be as hard to access as a current visa to enter New Zealand. It also included £45 million aimed at getting local authorities to obey the law and make SEND provision work for children, young people and families.

The question we ask at times like this is:

  1. Is it new money? Yes I am told by the Department for Education that it is new money secured at the Spending Review. 
  2. Who gets it and how? It’s to be done by procurement so LAs can bid for a share (presumably by putting forward a project/plans to be funded) If it’s first come first served, they’d better get moving. 

As long as it’s administered better than the NHS PPE contracts debacle, procurement is a much better way to dish out money. It’s a more accountable way than to just split it up between LAs according to size, with a headline for what it’s supposed to be spent on and hope for the best. Once awarded, it should be possible to trace it (in theory, but that’s one for Matt to root through in the future, as he did here)

  1. Will it make any noticeable difference? Hmm…. Read on


“Councils will be funded £30 million for the next three years to set up more than 10,000 additional respite placements, helping to provide positive opportunities for disabled children and young people and to give family carers a break so they can look after vulnerable children better in the long-term.”

DfE Press release: Package to transform education and opportunities for most disadvantaged

More money for SEND is always welcome. So, not to pour cold water on what is obviously a “good thing”, but a pot of £30 million divided by 10,000 placements gives £3000 per placement – whatever a "placement" might consist of. If each LA got the same number of placements, they could have approximately 66 of these “placements” each. Of course, they won't, as some LAs are far larger than others and some may not bid at all.

The other problem of course if that respite is expensive so £3000 isn't going to go very far per placement. Case in point:

“My daughter’s holiday playscheme provision costs at least £750 per week. Her EHCP says she should receive three weeks per year –minimal, and the council fights it every year.”


£3000 would barely cover one year for one family at this cost. Does the government not realise how much respite actually costs? 

The SEND funding news has nevertheless been welcomed by the Disabled Children’s Partnership,

‘Today’s government announcement of £30 million for additional short breaks for families with disabled children is a massively important, and warmly welcome, step in creating a better system of health and care support for every family with a disabled child. …Of course, there remains much work to be done. This additional funding will result in more support for children and families, but it will not meet all the challenges they face. Our latest economic analysis found that there was a large funding shortfall in disabled children’s social care, which today’s announcement will help but will not address in full. “

DCP statement

Launching the SNJ Intersectionality Panel focusing on disability, race, and cultural discrimination in SEND

Supported Internships money

The announcement also included Supported Internships, which we have written about here.

“The government will also aim to double the capacity of the Supported Internship programme to provide thousands more young people who have additional needs with the skills to secure and sustain paid employment. Backed by £18 million over 3 years, the programme will additionally drive up the standards and quality of internship delivery across the country for students who have an education, health and care plan.”

DfE Press release: Package to transform education and opportunities for most disadvantaged

Supported Internships are classed as full-time education and are generally not paid, though aimed at gaining skills to achieve sustained, paid employment. Although Supported Internships are a very good thing, they are not --and never have been-- used anywhere near as much as they could be. Some LAs have barely any young people on them. 

“More than 2,000 young people between the ages of 16 – 24 are already enrolled in Supported Internship placements in a wide variety of sectors, from healthcare and administration to hospitality and customer service. And this funding will go further, helping even more young people improve their skillset and thrive in a work environment.”

Will Quince

That’s 2,000 across the entire country. 13 per LA if it was evenly split, which of course it isn’t.

Guidance for SIs has recently been updated to include both learning from LAs who have actually used them and recent research. The 2020 research (pdf link) noted difficulties with parent/carer and employer awareness, concern over the potential loss of benefits, and a complicated funding profile. This included the difficulties of Access To Work financial support, which is unwieldy to administer. ATW can take an age to set up (maybe as long as a supported internship placement!) and the DWP still insists on the submission of paper timesheets and invoices to claim back the cost of personal assistants or other support such as taxis, and so on. It’s a job in itself and this money won’t fix this back-to-the-dark-ages issue. 

There is no further detail as to how this money will be apportioned other than it is also to be bid for. Anyone in local authority Post-16 teams with a plan awaiting funding, now is your time.

£45 million of "targeted SEND funding support"

Lastly, there is also more than £45 million of “continued targeted support for families and parents of children and young people with SEND”. The points below are already being done, so it will be interesting to see how these will be strengthened by this funding.

The money is for:

  • Targeting support to improve monitoring, support and intervention for local authorities and local health and care partners’ delivery of statutory SEND services, with a focus on underperforming areas and sharing best practice.
  • Improve participation and access for parents and young people for high quality advice and support; and
  • Directly support schools and colleges to effectively work with pupils with SEND, for example through training on specific needs like autism.

“These programmes come on top of more than £45 million for a combined 3-year package, to help all councils deliver quality public services and provide direct support to schools and families. All these interventions are designed with the direct involvement of young people with SEND themselves.”

Will Quince

The first bullet point may (or may not) be funding the expanded team of the DfE's SEND Advisers who've been parachuting like SuperNannies into local authorities since 2014. I'll leave it to you to decide how much success they've had so far (though admittedly it is a tough job cutting through the jungle of SEND)

On the subject of DfE Advisers, there's also this contract for "up to 15 external high-calibre finance professionals as SEND Financial Advisers" to whip LAs with big schools deficits into shape, identifying "underlying drivers of high spend and poor outcomes, and develop...reforms and change strategies that enable effective management of their high needs system." Let me save you some time - they don't have enough money to do the basics. That'll be £132k, please. What is efficient and valuable for SEND cannot be measured in the same way as producing widgets. Read more about this in our post from Chris Rossiter of the Driver Youth Trust.

The second bullet point is presumably for improving IAS services and they could do a lot worse than a return to the Independent Supporters that came in after the reforms. We hope "participation" includes better working with minority groups.

The third bullet point should excite all the charities offering training, though I am a big believer in Whole School SEND who are doing great work.

The SEND Minister, Will Quince, was ebullient in his blog about the announcement, sounding a teeny bit like a kid hyped-up on a six-pack of doughnuts and 2L bottle of full-sugar cola:

“Already, we are ploughing huge sums into funding for children and young people with more complex needs, which will increase to £9.1 billion in the next financial year. When combined with great teachers who have high aspirations for these students, this investment can achieve incredible outcomes...While not every student with SEND requires additional support, we need to go further for those who do…

And ultimately, it will help deliver on the promise that all children show: that when given the support they need to level the playing field, they can achieve amazing things.”

Will Quince Minister for SEND

Wow. If enthusiasm could #fixSEND, we'd be well on the way.

Ali Fiddy, Chief Executive of legal advice charity IPSEA, meanwhile sounded a more cautious note:

“There are children and young people with SEND all over the country who are not receiving the special educational provision and wider support to which they are entitled by law, and families who are struggling to get the help they need. The absolute priority for policy-makers should be to make sure that all local authorities have the resources they need to deliver their legal obligations, and to tackle the unfortunately widespread culture in some local areas of treating good quality support for children and young people with SEND as an optional extra.”

Ali Fiddy, IPSEA

So £93 million, as many pounds as there are miles to the Sun. Even with this new money, it still feels like the distance to go to fix SEND is just as far away as that big yellow ball of fire.

Also read:

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Tania Tirraoro

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