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(UK) Government fails to fund "growing demand" for special education

Mar 8, 2020, Guardian: New budget rules for councils may hit special needs school spending
Campaigners have raised fears that children with special needs, such as autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, could lose out from new government rules that will prevent councils from subsidising education spending from other parts of their budgets. The failure of government funding to match growing demand has led many councils to overspend on their education budgets and raid their reserves, with the situation particularly acute in special-needs education. From next month councils will no longer be able to reduce education budget deficits by taking money from other areas of spending. Instead they will have to clear their education overspending with money from within their education budgets, unless they get special permission from the government. Critics fear this will squeeze funding for early years and special-needs education – two areas already financially stricken. Growing numbers of parents have to take legal action to get councils to provide special-needs support for their children, while nursery closures have risen sharply in recent years…. The government argues the changes are needed because, if councils can use general funds to cover education overspends, auditors will require them to increase their reserves in response – which would force them to cut spending in other areas such as social care. Councils backed the plans during consultation…. …If school budget overspends have to be carried over to future years we could see more early years funding diverted to plug these gaps…. A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We are increasing high-needs funding for local authorities by £780m [$1B US] next year. We have made clear councils are not required to cover the deficits from general funds. The department will work with councils with the largest deficits to agree plans to reduce deficits while ensuring that young people with special educational needs and disabilities continue to receive the support they need.”


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