Deputy Mayor hits out at government’s ‘deeply irresponsible’ SEND policy

Deputy Mayor Anntoinette Bramble. Photograph: Hackney Council.

Hackney’s deputy mayor has slammed the government’s funding approach for people with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) as “not thought through” and “deeply irresponsible”.

Cllr Anntoinette Bramble (Lab, London Fields), deputy mayor and cabinet member for education, young people and children’s social care, criticised the lack of provision built into the extension of the SEND system for young people up to the age of 25.

The education chief answered questions on school funding at a 14 January meeting of the children and young people scrutiny commission.

Bramble was asked how other local authorities are supporting schools, based on her experience as the lead for children and young people at the Local Government Association (LGA).

Cllr Bramble said: “What we’re hearing from local authorities in the LGA is that there is a huge pressure on the demand of SEND, that they want to meet that need but the budget isn’t there to meet it.

“You keep hearing about overspends, but actually is it overspend? All it means is that government is not funding this adequately and what does that look like?

“Fundamentally, one of the oversights of this government was the change in the framework around SEND.

“When you extend provision for children to an older age, and you do not account for that financially, what you have is more children competing for the same pot of money.

“That does not work, and as a result, you have local authorities having an unprecedented need.”

The Children and Families Act came into force in 2014, extending the special educational needs system to young people up to the age of 25 and introducing an Education, Health & Care plan, a council-assessed legal document entitling a young person to extra help so they can access education or training.

Cllr Bramble added that the £350 million funding boost for SEND, announced by the government in December, whilst welcome, does not go far enough, and that the funding gap is in fact £474 million.

She said: “I know I might sound like the Grim Reaper, but it’s just continual cuts. Local authorities are seeing unprecedented cuts in their resources of £7.8 billion, and that affects the whole system.”

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