Analysis by the County Councils Network (CCN) shows that last year 182 young people a day begun an Education, Health and Care plan (EHCP) after their parent or guardian approached their council for special needs support, with over 500,000 young people now on these plans across the country.
The number of children being eligible for EHCPs, which sets out the level of support for each individual, has dramatically increased from 2015 in the aftermath of the then-government’s Children and Families Act 2014 which expanded eligibility of specialist needs support.
EHCPs replaced Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Statements. In 2014 as the act was beginning to be introduced, an average of 73 plans a day were begun compared to 182 a day in 2022.
The government has outlined a package of SEND reforms which will be introduced later this year, but local authority leaders warn that with the numbers of children requiring support continuing to rise sharply each year, the proposals are not enough to stem the tide.
Council leaders have called on the government to set out a solution and fully-fun the reforms, with councils’ SEND budgets reaching ‘unmanageable’ deficits.
If a child goes onto an EHCP, the school is a required pay the first £6,000 in support with the local authority financing the rest. But with numbers of pupils on these specialist plans more than doubling since 2015, these spiralling costs for councils have meant local authorities have built up significant deficits in their SEND budgets.
The analysis by CCN shows:
The government’s SEND Improvement Plan, unveiled this March, sets out new national standards which will clarify the support available to parents, as well as improving the number of specialist school places.
In addition, the government has been speaking to individual councils as part of its ‘safety valve’ programme, where individual local authorities are provided with funding to decrease their deficits alongside implementing changes to their SEND support locally.
But council leaders warn that the proposals to not adequately address the core demand and cost issues within the system, especially in the short-term, and have called on the future government to fully-fund these 2014 legislative changes that have resulted in a huge spike in demand.
Cllr Liz Brighouse, Education and Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Spokesperson for the County Councils Network, said:
“Despite the government’s reforms package for SEND services outlining some important changes which are beginning to be implemented, demand has continued to rise sharply with councils under extreme pressure to ensure every child gets the support they need, with 182 EHCPs starting each day on average in last year compared less than half that number in 2015.
“We remain concerned that these reforms will not stem the tide of demand that local authorities are facing, and whilst the legislative changes in 2014 were right in that they expanded eligibility and raised parental expectations, councils have increasingly been left to pick up the bill which has increased their deficits to unmanageable levels.
“Action is needed urgently to address this, and we are calling on government to fully-fund these reforms and ensure that councils do not continue to accrue significant deficits that would be impossible to pay down without insolvency.”
Notes to editor