To Update the SEND Strategy 2021-24
Reason for the decision:
Kent’s Strategy for Children and Young People with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities 2021-2024 (SEND strategy) was agreed by Sue Chandler, Cabinet Member for Integrated Children’s Services on 19th March 2021. This is the framework supporting the Council’s ambitious SEND reform agenda, aiming to improve outcomes for children and young people through increasing opportunities for local education as well as the provision of high quality, timely services, delivered at a sustainable cost to the Council and Direct Schools Grant. Following publication of the strategy, a range of additional guidance has been co-produced with stakeholders and is being implemented in schools, supported by an extensive professional development programme.
Nine months on, this report provides the rationale for a complementary ‘Ambition Statement’ which elaborates on the operational implementation of the SEND strategy, explicitly supporting greater SEND inclusion in mainstream schools, together with making some consequential adjustments in three paragraphs of the strategy to ensure integrity and consistency of the document.
The rationale for the Ambition Statement is both educational and social; however, we also have a duty to consider the financial imperative for accelerating the changes to the local SEND system, which we believe the statement will aid.
Services to children and young people with Special Educational Needs are funded from three main sources:
• General Fund
• Capital Grant for development of SEN services
• Specific ring-fenced grant from the Department for Education (DfE)
The General Fund pays for statutory services including the EHCP processes, SEN transport and Educational Psychology. Over the past four years, the Council has had to invest nearly £20m (over 50% increase) to support growing demands for these services.
The Department for Education provides capital funding to support the development of SEN services, in addition to specific funding for the building of new special schools, such as Aspire and Snowfields Special Schools in Kent. The general capital funding has not been sufficient to meet the demand for new SEN services where between 2018/19 and 2021/22 that spend has been £26m against funding of £17.5m. Whilst Government has recently announced additional funding there are no further details available at this stage.
The Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) is a ringfenced revenue grant to support school budgets and services. It is split into four main funding blocks each with a different purpose and specific rules attached, any under or overspend relating to this grant is held by the Local Authority in a specific reserve to be dealt with through future year spending plans:
• Schools Block
• High Needs Block
• Early Years Block
• Central Services Block.
The High Needs Block (HNB) of funding is intended to support the educational attainment of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and pupils attending alternative education provision. The HNB funds payments to maintained schools and academies (both mainstream and special), independent schools, further education colleges, specialist independent providers and pupil referral units. Some of the HNB is also retained by KCC to support some SEND services (staffing/centrally commissioned services) and overheads.
In recent years, the overspend on the High Needs block has been growing at a faster rate than the increases in the grant. The overspend in 2021/22 is predicted to be £41m, which contrasts with previous years of £32m in 2020/21, £21m in 2019/20 and £6.7m in 2018/19, which will result in an accumulated deficit on the High Needs block at the end of 2021/22 of £102m. This deficit is currently held separately in KCC’s final accounts in line with the statutory override that has been in operation since March 2020, whereby Local Authorities are required to ring-fence a DSG deficit and hold it separately within the Local Authority’s accounts. This override is time-limited and is subject to review; therefore, if no extension is given, any remaining deficit will form part of the Local Authority’s accounts from 2023-24.
In response to the growing financial pressures many Local Authorities are experiencing in meeting increasing demands for SEN services, the Department for Education (DfE) has, alongside providing extra funding, put in a requirement for affected Local Authorities to develop a deficit recovery plan. The DfE have also provided a commitment to work with Local Authorities to support financial recovery including the possibility of funding historic DSG deficits if a Local Authority can demonstrate it is not possible to pay this off over a reasonable timescale. However, this will only be considered when a Local Authority can demonstrate a reasonable set of actions which will enable the authority to operate within the annual DSG grant by setting out plans to change the pattern of provision where this is necessary, as well as to achieving greater efficiency in other ways. This paper will support the approach that will underpin Kent’s Deficit Recovery Plan as we develop one moving forward.
Decision type: Key
Reason Key: Expenditure or savings of more than £1m;
Decision status: Recommendations Approved
Division affected: (All Division);
Notice of proposed decision first published: 25/01/2022
Decision due: Not before 23rd Feb 2022 by Cabinet Member for Integrated Children's Services
Lead director: Matt Dunkley CBE
Department: Education & Young People's Services
Contact: Mark Walker, Interim Director for Disabled Children and Young People Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The proposed decision was considered at CYPE Cabinet Committee on 11 January 2022.
Financial implications: Please see above.
Legal implications: The report will set out the current pressures and likely direction of travel in respect of our ability to fulfil our statutory responsibilities for young people with SEND and our ability to manage spend within budget. If we are unable to achieve a change of direction, we will be neither able to fulfil our statutory responsibilities or to manage services within the designated budget.
Equalities implications: An EQIA already in place covering the SEND strategy which was completed less than one year ago. In our view, the proposed changes are relatively minor and whilst we think it unlikely that they will materially affect the conclusion of that assessment, we will review it in the light of any changes.