MORE funding is needed for Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) provision, says Warwickshire Labour group.
A ‘SEND and Inclusion Change Programme’, which was co-produced with parents and schools, was approved by Warwickshire County Council (WCC) in July. The programme aims to place more SEND pupils in mainstream schools.
But Warwickshire Labour leader Helen Adkins is concerned there is not enough funding in place to support pupils or the necessary training for staff, leaving already under-funded schools with further shortfalls.
Coun Helen Adkins said: “Why haven’t the county done more to support extra provision sooner? The lack of money for SEND provision is a national issue, however what have the Tories at WCC been doing to improve the situation of the last four to eight years? What have they been doing to get more money from central government?
“The county has a huge amount of reserves, and we would be using some of that. We would also be putting a lot of pressure on central government. The Labour group has instigated a cross party delegation to lobby central government and a task and finish group to look into this issue. We’ve had to battle for this. Why haven’t the Tories at the county been doing similar things for the past five to eight years?”
Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western is backing the call.
He agreed while schools were being delegated the responsibility to support pupils with SEND, they were not provided the necessary funding to support those struggling.
He added: “I’m supporting many young constituents that are being badly let down, with devastating consequences for them and their families. We urgently need more central government funding for SEND services, but it’s also critical the voice of local families and young people are central in any changes to local services.”
But WCC leader Izzy Seccombe told the Observer the county council – which has around £60million of funding for SEND provision – was committed to the area and had already overspent by £10million to support over 4,000 children.
She said: “Children should be in their local community as much as possible. They’re part of our society even if they have got difficulties, and if they have extreme needs we definitely do need to provide specialist care, and for me it’s about how we do that.
“We now have opportunity to purchase a new special school coming in September and we’re looking for more of those. It won’t be a standalone service for specialist provision, we will add to hubs and we will provide to school settings, so where possible children will be in their local community. It’s better for family, children and the school. The provision is more inclusive.
“The interesting thing is that these children who have education and health care plans, very often they’re absolutely fine, but perhaps a stressed moment can provide too much area of disconcert and they might need time out. But if we can provide these hubs they can move in and out of the school setting. It’s not disruptive for them and not disruptive for the school but they can also get additional support when they need it. We want children in registered school settings so they feel they’re safe.
“Of course demand is increasing year on year but the programme is a way of managing the budget better. We’re also waiting to hear about the government SEND strategy for more funding support next year.”