Jan 30, 2019, BBC News: Special needs overspend in eight out of 10 councils https://www.bbc.com/news/education-47058309 English councils have overspent by at least £324m on their budgets for young adults and children with special needs this financial year, the BBC has found. Of the 136 local authorities that provided information to the BBC under Freedom of Information laws, 123 have overspent on their high needs budget. The government says it is providing an extra £250m [$326M US dollars] o ease pressures, and £100m [$131M US] on new school places. Funding has not kept pace with the growth in extra support, say councils. Some of these extra pressures have resulted from a legal change in 2014 which handed councils responsibility for young adults' special educational needs between the ages of 18 and 25. They were already responsible for under-18s. This change led to a growth in the number of college and university students and apprentices being supported. In Dorset, since 2014, the number of under-25s on education, health and care plans - which give a legal right to specialist support - has grown by more than two-thirds. This led to the high needs budget being overspent every year, and now a £13m [$17M US] deficit is predicted for the coming financial year. Dorset county councillor Andrew Parry, who is responsible for education, said the council had run out of options. "It is a multi-million pound problem. Up to now it's been a case of drawing on reserves, reorganising budgets. "But there is a breaking point. "Dorset is not alone in recognising that day of reckoning will be coming very soon," he said. According to the information obtained from England's councils, 76 local authorities have shifted money from other education budgets to meet their obligations to high needs children. This comes as spending per pupil in schools has fallen by 8% in real terms in England since 2010. … Councils say they feel caught between legal duties and the need to balance budgets. And they are also facing growing pressure from unhappy parents, including legal challenges in the High Court. … Special needs shortfall £324 million [$423M US] overspend by councils in England this year (BBC FOI)* 14% of children have special needs 11% increase in special needs care plans in 2017-18 £250m extra promised by government over next two years The government said it was aware of the pressures on the £6bn [$7.8B US] high needs budget in England. An extra £250m was promised in December to be invested over the next two years, after intensive lobbying from councils. And more special school places to cater for those with the highest needs are being planned through the free school programme. Special units Dorset … It is setting up five special needs units attached to schools across the county to ease the pressure on special schools and reduce the cost of out-of-area placements. One of these is up and running at Parley First School, in Ferndown, where a group of specially-designed classrooms run by specialist teaching staff have been built on to the existing mainstream school. They cater for 10 pupils who need extra support with complex communication needs. Most of the pupils have autism spectrum disorder among their extra needs, so the classroom is designed to be calming. A special sensory room allows the boys to gradually increase the time they can join in classes in the rest of the school. … But six-year-old Malachi, who has multiple special needs, has been out of school since September, because of the difficulty in finding him a suitable place…. The government said it recognised the pressures on the £6bn high needs budget, and the additional £250m was intended to help over the next two years. … In Scotland, where there has also been a trend of increasing demand, there is a presumption in law to educate most pupils with extra learning needs in mainstream schools. This has faced criticism. In Northern Ireland there has also been a rise in the number of pupils diagnosed with a special need. In addition, the Department of Education has a policy of inclusion, which has means many more pupils are educated in mainstream schools.
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