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Warnings over Cambridgeshire funding for children with special educational needs and disabilities

There are stark warnings that Cambridgeshire County Council “can’t carry on like this” as it is revealed funding for special needs education and children with disabilities is falling behind demand.

There are warnings over SEND budget pressures in Cambridgeshire (6228484)
There are warnings over SEND budget pressures in Cambridgeshire (6228484)

SEND (special educational needs and disability) covers a wide range of special educational provision including language skills, autism, sensory impairments, or long-term medical conditions.

In Cambridgeshire, the overspend for SEND this year is expected to be £8.9million.

This week, it was announced the Department for Education (DfE) had set aside a national fund to help schools cope with growing pressures on their SEND budgets.

Of this, Cambridgeshire will get £1.5m for the year 2018-19, and the same again the following year. The boost has been welcomed, but concerns remain it is far too little to help deal with the increasing pressures the council is facing.

Jonathan Lewis, education director at Cambridgeshire County Council, said: “Funding has just not kept pace with the needs. There is a complete lack of funding, and it is not keeping up with the growth of our population.”

Mr Lewis said there was no need for parents to worry, and that there was no intention of reducing the services on offer, but stressed that, unless something is done soon, serious discussions will need to be had about what is achievable with the funds available.

“I think the funding system is inadequate,” said Mr Lewis. “We do not want to reduce services. We cannot risk children.”

There are now calls for the government to step up and help with more cash.

Simon Bywater, chairman of the council’s children and young people committee, said he would be lobbying the government for more money.

Cllr Bywater said: “No one needs to worry right now but, ultimately, we can’t carry on
like this.

“The funding needs to reflect the growth of the pressures on the county council.”

Children and families minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “We know that additional funding isn’t the only solution, which is why part of our SEND announcement was to create more specialist places and facilities in mainstream schools giving more children access to a school place that will meet their needs.”

Mr Lewis said finding a solution was going to be a “real challenge”.

Sign a petition for more funding for schools at petition.parliament.uk/petitions/232220.

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