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(UK) SPED FUNDING not keeping up with "increasing demand"; $5-$6.4B more needed

Jan 16, 2024, Medriva: The Struggle for Special Educational Needs Support in the UK: A Call for Increased Funding and Reform

Parents across the UK are experiencing a distressing struggle to secure places in specialist schools for their autistic children. With the demand far outweighing the available spaces, families are left battling with local authorities, a process that is both mentally and emotionally draining. Sandeep Baines, a troubled mother of two autistic children, echoes the sentiment of many parents in her situation, expressing concern over the lack of available spaces for her son in a specialist school.

This struggle has led to the formation of SEND Reform England, a group that campaigns for better support for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). Members of the group travelled to Westminster to converse with MPs about this pressing issue, advocating for increased government investment in SEN support.

The Funding Fight: Charities Step In

The Positive Path Foundation, a Hampshire-based autism charity, is also fighting to secure vital funding, despite being overwhelmed with pleas for assistance. Jane Atkinson, the founder, plans to bring the funding battle to 10 Downing Street to ensure the services for young adults with autism and physical disabilities are safeguarded. Atkinson highlighted the deficiency of spaces for specialist education for autistic children and young adults, which often leads to their exclusion from schools or colleges.

The social care system for autistic individuals is described as broken and under-resourced, leaving charities like the Positive Path Foundation struggling to find the financial support needed to fill the gap. This situation hinders the access of autistic children and adults to education and benefits.

Government Response: Is It Enough?

The government has made £4.2m [$5.3M] available this year to improve services for children and young adults on the autism spectrum, and the NHS Long Term Plan aims to expand and transform mental health services in England with a minimum extra £2.3bn [$2.9B] a year by March 2024. However, the question remains: is this enough to meet the growing and complex needs of these children?

A Cry for Review of SEND Provision Funding

In the House of Commons, a heated debate calls for a review of funding for SEND provision, highlighting the human impact and the struggles faced by children and families. The speaker shared a personal experience of his grandchild’s struggles with a genetic disease and the lack of resources available, encapsulating the challenges faced by many children with complex needs. He pointed out that the increase in demand for Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) and statements of special educational need has not been met with adequate funding from central Government, leading to long wait times for support and strain on local authorities’ finances.

The Need for More Inclusive Support

The focus on autism and ADHD in SEND provision has led to a lack of resources and support for children with other disabilities, such as cerebral palsy (CP). The struggle to find disability-friendly sessions and school places for these children is a significant challenge, leading to feelings of defeat and sadness among parents. The lack of provision for all disabled children, not just those with autism or ADHD, is a glaring issue that needs addressing.

Conclusion: The Urgency for Change

With parents struggling to secure places in specialist schools for autistic children and charities fighting for funding, it’s clear that the UK’s support system for children with special educational needs and disabilities is in crisis. The government’s current funding and provisions are not keeping pace with the increasing demand and need for support. The call for an additional £4-6 billion [$5-$6.4B] in annual funding and a review of SEND provision funding reflects the urgency of this issue. To ensure all children receive the support and education they deserve, there needs to be significant reform and investment in the UK’s SEND provision.


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