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(UK) SPED "on verge of crisis" in England "as demand for specialist support soars"

Oct 22, 2018, Guardian: Special needs pupils being failed by system 'on verge of crisis' Rising demand puts councils in England at risk of bankruptcy, Guardian investigation reveals Children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are being failed by a system “on the verge of crisis” as demand for specialist support soars and threatens to bankrupt local authorities, a Guardian investigation has revealed. Parents of children with SEND are increasingly locked in prolonged and costly disputes with councils across England who are too often failing to deliver on their legal obligations…. Appeals heard by the special educational needs and disability tribunal have nearly doubled in the past two years. According to the most recent figures, parents are successful in 89% of tribunal hearings, prompting concerns that some local authorities are making poor decisions, delaying vulnerable children’s access to education. Between 2011-12 and 2015-16, the tribunal heard about 800 cases a year; in 2016-17 the number rose to 1,600 in the fallout after sweeping government changes for children with SEN and disabilities that came into force in 2014. Ali Fiddy, the chief executive of Independent Parental Special Education Advice (IPSEA), which offers advice and support for parents, said there had been a 56% increase in demand for IPSEA’s services since the Children and Families Act 2014 which they were struggling to meet. … More than 1.2 million school pupils – about 15% of all those in England – have some kind of SEND, according to the Department for Education. Approximately 253,000 (3% of all pupils) have SEND statements or education and health care plans (EHCP), a legally binding document detailing the additional support that child needs. Councils, suffering from years of budget cuts, warn the current system is “unsustainable”. … In Kent, which is one of the biggest local authorities in England, high-needs spending rose from £119m five years ago to £167m this year. In the last 18 months there has been an 81% increase in requests for EHCP assessments. Part of the national increase in demand is due to the fact that the government’s SEND changes extended council liability to the age of 25…. As mainstream schools struggle to support SEND pupils, a drift towards specialist schools – in particularly independent specialist schools – is an additional financial burden for councils. Official statistics show the number of children in private schools has risen from 3.7% of all SEND children in England to 6.9% in the last 10 years. Costs can be upwards of £50,000 a year per child; in a few extreme and complex cases it can cost £500,000 a year…. The shadow education secretary, Angela Rayner, said: “The situation facing the UK’s most vulnerable children is so serious that the United Nations has warned that Britain is violating the international rights of disabled people, and thousands of disabled young people have been left without a school place at all.” The minister for children and families, Nadhim Zahawi, said: “Core schools funding is increasing to £43.5bn by 2020 – this includes £6bn of funding specifically for children with special educational needs and disabilities, up from £5bn in 2013. “But we recognise there are pressures on high-needs budgets due to increasing costs, which is why we have taken a number of steps to help schools and local authorities get the best value for every pound.”


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