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(UK) Northamptonshire: Severe special needs children being denied services

May 9, 2022, Nursery World: Northamptonshire children with high needs locked out of early years funding https://www.nurseryworld.co.uk/news/article/northamptonshire-children-with-high-needs-locked-out-of-early-years-funding

E. Midlands

A letter dated 23 March from North Northamptonshire Council reveals that from 1 April, early years high needs funding for children with SEND, but without an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), will no longer be available - a decision taken by its Schools Forum.

The funding is provided to childcare settings to support the children in their care.

For children already in receipt of the money, the funding will continue, however those children who do not already receive the financial support are currently unable to claim the money.

However, North Northamptonshire Council has now confirmed to Nursery World that a similar funding stream will be put in place shortly, while West Northamptonshire Council said children already in receipt of the funding continue to receive it and the first panel session of the financial year when new applications will be considered is being put in place.

The decision by the councils has left numerous children with complex behavioural and medical issues unable to obtain the support they need while attending early years settings, putting their learning and development, and in some cases, their safety, at risk, or forcing parents to take their children out of nursery altogether, consequently meaning they have to quit their jobs.

The letter sent from North Northamptonshire Council to providers on 23 March stated, ‘From 1st April 2021, North Northamptonshire Council maintained an arrangement made by the previous council whereby [sic] were able to apply for additional funding to support children with Special Educational Needs, but not having an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), through the Early Years High Needs Funding process.

‘This funding was provided over and above the Notional SEND element of the Basic Entitlement, which is also provided to support settings meet the needs of these pupils.

‘Support for children who have Special Educational Needs who do not have an Education and Health Care Plan (EHCP) is not a statutory requirement and as such, North Northamptonshire County Council Schools Forum has taken the decision to pause on Early Years High Needs Funding from 1st April 2022.

‘From April 2022, as a result of increasing pressures on the statutory support, the contribution from the High Needs Block into Early Years ceases with no additional funding available to support this funding stream.

‘In light of this decision, from 1 April 2022, it will no longer be possible to submit an application for additional resources through the Early Years High Needs Funding process, and any applications that have already been submitted for April 2022 will not be reviewed or progressed.’

It goes on to say that going forward, to support the childcare sector, the Disability Access Fund (DAF) has been increased by £185 to £800 per eligible child, per year, while the funding base rate has risen by 16p per child, per hour, and the Notional SEND payment has been separated out from the base rate to be paid as a supplement of 8p per hour, per child. Parents impacted by the local authorities’ decision have started a Facebook group to take collaborative action against the councils.

Heather Sinclair, whose two-year-old twins have developmental delays and signs of autism, told Nursery Worldthat she has to attend nursery with her children as without the early years high needs funding, Pen Green is unable to provide the one-to-one support they need for their own safety.

Another child, three-year-old Khalyl, who is looked after by his former foster carers, who are now his legal guardians, has also been locked out of the high needs funding. Khalyl has several conditions including epilepsy, cerebral palsy and is non-verbal and awaiting a diagnosis of ASD [Autism Spectrum Disorder], which means he requires 1:1 ratio at play and 2:1 ratio at feed and medication times. …

Khalyl is currently in receipt of the Disability Access Fund – a payment of £800 [$987] for a year available for children aged three and up, however his legal guardian says this is nowhere near enough to cover the support he requires at nursery….

For Aimee Line, the nursery her son, who has autism, attends said it cannot support his needs without the extra funding. As such, she is considering either deferring his school start by a year or moving out of the county.

A West Northamptonshire Council spokesperson said, ‘There has been no stop in payment for those nurseries with children that have previously been awarded high needs inclusion funding and the first panel of the current financial year is being arranged and will take place shortly.’…

‘For the 2022/23 financial year, North Northamptonshire Council has increased the funding it commits to support children with additional needs by £6.5m. This reflects the full up lift in grant received from the Government through the High Needs Block of the Dedicated School’s Grant. The council has also looked to ensure that the use of this this funding best meets children and young people’s needs by placing greater emphasis on an inclusive, comprehensive and consistent assessment process. This enables a more holistic approach to meeting need, draws in partners such as health and voluntary organisations, and allows access to a wider range of high-quality services and support….