• Victoria Gallagher

Vince Cable Calls For More SEND Funding

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable has called for the government to provide more funding for those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). He recently wrote in a piece for Politics Home that parents and their children with SEND are being “let down by the services which are supposed to support them”.

Mr Cable stressed that this isn’t an isolated issue, but is one that comes up time and again, and is a particular concern that he and other MPs frequently hear from their constituents.

He acknowledged that there is a desire from those on the front-line, such as teachers, headteachers and other service providers, to ensure that children are part of an inclusive learning environment, but that they are not properly supported.

The issue lies with the complex funding system, he argued, with local authorities that are already facing budget squeezes and underfunded schools expected to provide the money for the additional support these youngsters need. However, this cash is very rarely readily available.

“Some local authorities (like mine in Richmond upon Thames, and neighbouring Kingston) are piling up massive financial deficits as they try to meet their statutory ‘special needs’ duties without the money to pay for them,” Mr Cable stated.

Earlier this month, the Independent highlighted research from the children’s commissioner Anne Longfield which found that 60,000 children in England are permanently out of school and being home educated.

Many of these are youngsters with special educational needs, or who are vulnerable, with parents often feeling that they have little choice but to home educate.

She also revealed that the number of children being educated at home increased by 27 per cent between 2017 and 2018.

The news provider also shared separate research from Channel 4’s Dispatches, which found that one in five of the children withdrawn from school to be educated at home has SEND.

Ms Longfield commented: “Many of these children are very vulnerable, have special educational needs, or are unable to cope with a ‘one size fits all’ school system. Schools should be for all children, including those with complex needs and those who struggle academically.”

She also said that there is a “clear case” for the introduction of a register for all home-educated children, so that local authorities can be sure that they are safe, monitor their performance and ensure they are receiving the right level of education.

In November last year, local authorities warned that they are facing a funding gap of more than half a billion pounds for the provision of support for children with SEND.

Mr Cable obtained a debate in parliament about the SEND funding crisis, acknowledging that while these adjournment debates “don’t change the world”, they do have an impact. “They force ministers to account publicly for what they are doing or, in this case, not doing,” he stated.

“I want to know how, with the promise of an ‘end to austerity’, ministers are going to fund SEND support properly without causing further damage to schools in general or those who depend on local authority services,” he concluded.

If you need support with parenting a child with special needs, get in touch with us to find out how we can help.

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