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(UK) Liverpool: Council spends $8M outsourcing SPED students; "huge national overspend"

Nov 30, 2021, Liverpool Echo: £6m [$8M] spent on sending vulnerable children out of borough to learn https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/6m-spent-sending-vulnerable-children-22318899

W. coast of England

Some of the most vulnerable children in Sefton are being sent outside of the borough to learn because of “significant pressures” on services within the area. A report released ahead of a Sefton Council cabinet meeting on Thursday revealed that a total of 126 children are currently accessing out of borough placements, at a total cost of £6m [$8M], with an additional £1m [$1.3M] projected to be spent next year. The report states these costs have “increased significantly” in recent years and adds this is “largely due, in part, to a lack of in-house provision and also increased parental demand through judicial process.” However, the report adds the council are taking steps to increase in-borough provision for students with special educational needs. This includes “investigating” the possibility of creating bespoke sixth form provision in two existing specialist schools as well as plans to create a provision with one secondary academy for students with autism as well as working to provide more mainstream opportunities through building adaptations. High needs allocation block funding, which comes from the dedicated schools grant, is currently being reviewed by the government, with councils have been advised they will no longer be able to use council reserves to backfill deficits in future years. Sefton Council’s high needs allocation deficit currently stands at almost £9 million [$12M] , although the council says that the availability of additional places within the borough has helped to reduce the cost of sending children outside of Sefton to learn compared with previous years. Officers referred to “serious concern” over how the deficit will be managed in future years and concerns over “significant pressures” on the borough’s already oversubscribed specialist schools and their finances. The report states: “The continual increase in demand for High Needs support and the anticipated increase to the deficit on the HN Block over the next few years is still of serious concern as there is no clarity from the Government over how future / accumulated [dedicated schools grant] deficits will be resolved.” In common with the picture nationally, there has been a sharp increase in the number of children identified as having special educational needs in recent years, which has contributed to a huge national overspend of over £250 million [$332M]. In Sefton, it is estimates an additional 194 children will have Education and Health Care plans in the borough over the next five years….