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(UK) Devon: $69M special ed overspend as "demand soared"

Apr 22, 2021, BBC: Devon child with special needs sent to Surrey school

(SW England) A seven-year-old child with special educational needs is at boarding school hundreds of miles from home. Alfie Bonell, from near Loddiswell in south Devon, has been going to boarding school in Surrey since September, a round-trip of more than 400 miles. His mother Julia blames a lack of special educational needs and disability (SEND) provision. The government said the SEND system was under review and it had increased funding by 25% to £8bn [$11B U.S.] in 2021-22. Alfie was diagnosed at the age of five with a language disorder and also struggles with numeracy and literacy. Ms Bonell, co-chair of the Devon Parent Carer Forum, a local support group, said many other families were dealing with long and difficult struggles to get the right help…. The shortage of specialist places in Devon meant he had to go to school in Surrey, boarding there during the week, she said.... Another mother said assessments should take a maximum of 20 weeks but hers took seven months for her autistic daughter. … Last year the county council overspent by £49.8m [$69M] on SEND funding as demand soared. The number of children qualifying for SEND funding in Devon had risen from 3,572 in 2015 to 7,295 this year, said the county council….

Devon County Council's Conservative group said it had campaigned for extra resources and had been working "really hard" to improve the service. The group said it had invested in extra staff, improved communications with parents and was investing about £20m [$28M] in providing 600 extra special school places. The Liberal Democrat group said it would publish a plan for change to improve children's services. … The Labour Group said the government was failing children with special educational needs and disabilities. It said without adequate funding, thousands of children were losing out on a proper education and the vital support they needed to learn. The independent group said it was "easy" for the government "to tell us what we need to do, but ultimately they have to fund it appropriately and adequately for it to work"….


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