Damian in High Court over ‘SEND Crisis’

Parents of children special needs took the Education Secretary, Damian Hinds to the High Court on Wednesday 27th June 2019, in a bid to get the tory Government allocate more resources for children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).

The case has been dubbed a “landmark legal challenge” as it argues that the Government has a duty to fund the extra demands on local authorities. Representing local councils, the Local Government Association, has said that the unprecedented demand for additional SEND support has caused a ‘perfect storm’ of factors:

More pupils: school census data shows that between 2014 and 2018 the number of pupils in all schools in England grew by just over 400,000 – an increase of 5 per cent, with some local areas having experienced much higher population growth than others.

A change in expectations: the Children’s and Families Act 2014 rightly raised the expectations of parents and the aspirations of pupils through a new code of SEND practice expecting all children to receive the best possible education and support.

New legislation: many more young people aged 16 to 25 are now on EHC plans.

More children with complex needs: advances in life expectancy, more awareness and better diagnoses means there are now more children and young people with needs that are difficult to meet within mainstream schools.

Current secondary school attainment measures: do not currently reward schools with a high degree of inclusion.

kevin courtney send high court 270619The National Education Union has said that funding is at a ‘crisis point‘.

Kevin Courtney, joint General Secretary has said:

“The funding shortfall for SEND provision comes against the backdrop of the swingeing cuts to local authority budgets imposed by the Westminster Government over the last 9 years which have left many councils on the brink. Between 2010 and 2020, councils will have lost almost 60p out of every £1 the Government had provided for services. This is an appalling way to be addressing the education of some of our most vulnerable children and young people and is causing untold misery and worry for thousands of families”

Figures released by the NEU show that Special Needs provision in Lewisham lost out on £15,816,314 because of austerity policies since 2015.

In response to the judicial review, Sir James Eadie QC is reported to have told the court that the government does understand the nature of extent of alleged SEND “crisis” but that it was not clear that a lack of funding is “full or predominant cause”.

He cited other possible factors such as the cultures of schools and balance of funding between local authority maintained and independent schools.

“The position ultimately is that [local authorities] are responsible for making the necessary provisions under the Children and Families Act 2014 and they cannot cite scarcity of resources as a reason for not doing it,” he added. “In other words, saying that ‘we have not got the money’ is no excuse.”

Responding, Mr Justice Lewis asked: “What if a council says we have not got a cheque book? We have sold that too.”

“If they have got to rob Peter to pay Paul then that means you have to because you have a statutory duty to help Paul,” Sir Eadie replied. “If that means you got to cut traffic lights or cut social care, then so be it.”

Due to the widespread concerns Damian Hinds has launched a call for evidence on SEND funding. You can send him your views here

 

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