Funding boost for special needs education

An extra £1m is to be spent supporting children with special needs in Devon.

The cash, approved by Devon County Council last week, will be used to ensure the county has a more ‘joined-up’ service for children and young people.

The aim is to improve the quality of Education, Health and Care Plans. They set out how children with special needs should be looked after. It is hoped that the additional money will also speed up the production of the plans.

The council says the extra funding will boost co-operation between parents, families and professional staff.

Cash has been found from the council’s general budget with contributions from NHS partners.

Chief Officer for Children’s Services, Jo Olsson, told councillors last week: “In 2014, the government introduced much needed reforms to the arrangements to meet the needs of children with SEND.

“The government funding for the reforms did not fully match the increased demand and expectation.

“The system, nationally and locally, is experiencing sustained pressure. The additional investment will ensure we are better able to meet the needs of children and families.”

She said the investment will fund 14 extra full-time staff to work with families and speed up the production and quality of plans, and help reintegrate children with autism into mainstream schools.

Eight further short-term posts will improve the computerised case management system in children’s social care. She said the reforms would pay for themselves over time through better and more timely interventions in the lives of vulnerable young people.

Devon’s deputy leader and cabinet member for children’s services, James McInnes, said: “We are strongly lobbying the government for more money for schools and special needs education. But in the meantime we must act urgently to improve the services we provide for some of Devon’s most vulnerable children and their families.

“I support the reforms the government made in 2014 when they extended the special needs services for children and young people we provide from the ages of 16 and 18 right up to 25. But they increased the number of people we serve at the drop of a hat without providing the resources to pay for those services.

“That’s why I am lobbying so strongly for an extra £1.4 billion nationally for special needs education. But we cannot sit back and wait for the Government to take action and that’s why we are approving this investment for vulnerable children in Devon now.”

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