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(UK) Cumbria: $23M deficit in "High Needs Block"; "increasing complexity of need"

April 12, 2024, BBC News: Lack of SEN provision leading to 'cost implications'

NW England

A lack of provision for children with special educational needs (SEN) is leading to significant cost implications, according to a council report.

There are currently three special schools and one Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) in Westmorland and Furness, with "significant geographical areas" of the region having no access to any provision, the report states.

The report has suggested a new provision in Barrow would help bolster support.

According to a school census taken in January 2023, 4,353 pupils were receiving school-based SEN support – 13.4% of the school-aged population in the area.

The report says there is currently "insufficient specialist provision" in Westmorland and Furness.

Westmorland and Furness Council, in keeping with many other local authorities, has a cumulative deficit on its High Needs Block, the Local Democracy Reporting Service said.

At the end of December 2023, that deficit was forecast to be £18.7m [$23M].

The report attributes the deficit to a rise in the number of children and young people with an Education, Health and Care Plan (ECHP), alongside increasing complexity of need and increasing costs of provision - in addition to the impact of the funding formula.

'Much-needed support'

A new alternative provision in Barrow will provide "much-needed support" for children who require a more specialist approach to access the curriculum because of social and emotional difficulties, the report states.

Four new classrooms are also under construction at Sandgate School, in Kendal, with an additional 30 places available from September 2024.

A resourced provision at a primary school in Eden has also recently been approved.

Members of the council's children, young people and families oversight and scrutiny committee will meet to discuss the report on 18 April.


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