Councils rushed on special needs funds

Special educational needs services could be threatened next year by
new government funding rules, fears the Local Government

Draft regulations on education funding unveiled by education
secretary Charles Clarke last week will prevent councils from
increasing their SEN budgets by more than the overall 4 per cent
schools increase unless they apply to Clarke within the next month.
To do that, councils have to calculate how much they spend on SEN
services, inform their schools forum of the reason why they want a
dispensation and then apply to Clarke by 8 December for permission
to do so.

The Local Government Association said the timescale was too short
and the process too complex.

“This will leave councils stuck between a rock and a hard place.
They are being asked to look at a demand-led service and make
decisions about next year’s funding by December. If councils don’t
do this then they could get a tribunal decision in June calling for
a child to get special services but they will not be able to give
more money,” an LGA education officer said.

Currently there are no such restrictions in place, and often money
allocated to schools for SEN services not spent is given back to
local education authorities to be redistributed where demand is
greatest. That is unlikely to happen under the new system.

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