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£1.5bn funding gap for disabled children - What short to medium term solutions are required?

Posted by: Ailidh Tullis 23 Aug 18  | Current Issues |  Education |  Government |  Public Sector


Funding, or lack thereof is not something new across Children’s Services and subsequently year on year our precious specialist services across vulnerable children and young people rely on funding and resources that are sadly drained, making it increasingly harder for councils and schools to do their job.

In a recent finding from “The Disabled Children's Partnership (DCP)” https://disabledchildrenspartnership.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Case-for-a-Disabled-Childrens-Fund.pdf it cited the drop in allocated funding and resources over the last couple of years and the challenges it poses to its service users. Whilst it’s recognised and acknowledged that this enormous deficit needs urgent attention, The Disabled Children’s Partnership are now calling upon central government to pledge £1.5 billion a year to a Disabled Children’s Fund to plug the current funding gap. This may sound like a tall ask, but this equates to just 0.2% of total government spending.

Both the DCP and a well-known website “Special Education Needs Jungle” have highlighted the shortcomings of our children’s services due to lack of funding and provision which was shown on the high-profile BBC documentary Panorama. If you missed it, you can catch up on the BBC website - https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0bc2ch6 - With over 1 million disabled children across the UK, a rise of 33% in a decade, it’s unclear as to what we’re actually doing to create positive outcomes?

Who is this affecting?

In the research published by the Disabled Children’s Partnership, it was cited that tens of thousands of disabled children are missing out on vital tools to assist in their learning and development. Even things that you and I take for granted, just leaving the house to attend school is a privilege for some who simply aren’t granted the funding to make their journey, which inevitably affects their ability to learn and grow both academically and socially. With 1 in 10 parents believing their children’s needs have been met, versus an overwhelming 90% of parents who feel they have had to fight for the simple necessities for their child, it’s evident that serious work is required in the short to medium term to support the improvement journey that is so desperately needed.

With parents leading the way and challenging these budget cuts, a recent article published in the Independent last week detailed how three mothers of children with special educational needs have won a breakthrough case after taking a council to the High Court over budget cuts to the service. It is the first such case in the country. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/bristol-city-council-special-needs-cuts-high-court-disabilities-budget-austerity-a8479356.html

The parent in question, felt passionately enough to challenge the council over £5m worth of cuts to the Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND) budget. The High Court has now ordered the council to reverse these cuts, with the Judge telling the local authority in question that it had acted unlawfully and there was simply no need for the reduction. The judge then went on to say that the council had “no regard” for children’s welfare and was only interested in balancing the books.

What must be taken from this recent case is the fact that parents do have a voice and can be heard. Positive change and support is certainly possible. The big question is, will this case in isolation be enough to encourage other Local Authorities to re think strategies and budget allocations?

The education market is extremely buoyant at the moment and can change on an almost daily basis - I would be keen to hear from the market experts I work with, what are your thoughts? Is your Local Authority making strides towards positive change?

I personally specialise in placing highly skilled individuals into these vulnerable subject areas, so fully appreciate the challenges for Local Authorities to find the right skills to support them with strategic change and succession planning. With the focus now moving to Central Government to listen to the growing concerns and allocate more budget to Children with disabilities, I for one remain optimistic that positive change is afoot and additional support is coming over the next 6 months.

Please get in touch today on 0117 313 7110 or contact me on a.tullis@baltimoreconsultingltd.com.  I’d welcome the opportunity to gain further insight from true market experts who are working towards a brighter future across SEN.

 

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