Education Secretary Damien Hinds has announced that local authorities will receive an additional £250 million over the next two years for the high needs budget, and an extra £100m to create more specialist places in schools and colleges, including facilities and specialist equipment.
Natspec Chief Executive Clare Howard welcomed the announcement:
“This new funding is much needed and Natspec is keen to work with local authorities to ensure that both the existing and new funding for high needs is used to best effect. We know that there is still a significant funding gap, with Local Government Association research identifying a shortfall of almost £500m in 2018/19, and the number of young people aged 16-25 with EHCPs continuing to rise.
We are also pleased that Children and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi MP has written separately to AoC and Natspec to confirm that the new funding can be used for post-16 provision in colleges as well as schools. The issues for colleges are different from those in schools, and therefore the solutions might also need to be different.
Whilst the proportion of children in specialist provision is rising in the school sector, the same is not true of colleges, and specialist colleges are increasingly offering day provision for young people living locally. Meanwhile, there are approximately 20,000 students with EHCPs placed in FE colleges who are not funded under the high needs funding system and receive no additional support.
We are therefore keen to work with the LGA and individual councils about the best use of the money as it relates to 16-25-year-olds. This may mean that we need to make better use of and invest in existing provision – both specialist and mainstream – rather than creating new centres which could ultimately be a false economy costing more in the longer term”.