Lack of Government funding is putting unsustainable pressure on schools delivering special needs education (SEND), says Richmond Council. 

A recent announcement of additional money falls way short of what is needed for SEND support at local schools.

The latest Government SEND funding announcement provides an additional £474,000 per annum in 2018/19 and 2019/20 to meet the ongoing cost of supporting Richmond children who need additional support in their education. 

The predicted funding gaps in these years are closer to £5.8 million and £7.9 million.

The increased funding falls well short of what is required to maintain the high-quality services our children deserve.

This lack of funding will force the Council to consider re-prioritising funding away from general school budgets to subsidise the provision of special needs education. 

There are currently approximately 3,500 children and young people attending schools in the borough who receive SEN support. 

In addition, there are around 1,360 children and young people from Richmond whose special educational needs and/or disabilities are significant enough for them to have an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP).

The number of EHCPs has increased by over 20 per cent since 2016, and it is anticipated that over the next 12 months more than 100 additional children and young people will receive one for the first time.

Cllr Robin Brown, Cabinet Member for Finance and Performance said: “Local authorities are under enormous pressure as we try to deliver high quality SEND services under increasing strain from Government underfunding.

“This latest announcement is a drop in the ocean and leaves 90 per cent of the SEND budget shortfall unaddressed.

"Worse still, we are still expecting to see our funding shortfall grow to £12m per year by March 2022 if nothing changes. The Council simply can’t afford to bridge this gap. 

“We are lobbying the government to explain the situation, but it can feel like our pleas are falling on deaf ears.

"So we are also having to consult on SEND services and consider a transfer from the main schools budget.”

Cllr Penny Frost, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services and Schools said: “The Government cannot continue to rely on teachers, parents and Councils to plug the gap for them – there is only so much belt-tightening to be done before services to our children are severely impacted. 

“We will continue to impress upon the Secretary of State and his colleagues the urgency of this funding crisis and would hope the Government re-examines its commitment to the children of this borough.”