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New Education Secretary must put SEND funding crisis at the top of his agenda

Release Date: 30 July 2019

Newly appointed Secretary of Education, Gavin Williamson has been urged to make addressing the growing funding crisis in special needs education (SEND) a priority as he takes on his new role.

Richmond Council’s Lead Member for Finance and Resources, Cllr Robin Brown, has written to Mr Williamson (pdf, 184 KB) congratulating him on his appointment and outlining the difficult financial position Councils are in as they attempt to meet the growing need for SEND services.

In the letter Cllr Brown says:

“In the current financial year, the latest forecast is for a deficit on the high needs block of £5m and a net deficit of £4.5m. We have received approval to make a transfer from the schools block to the high needs block of £0.6m and this is already taken into account in the forecast. 

“Earlier this year, Richmond's deficit recovery plan was discussed with our Schools Forum. Our SEND Futures Plan is forecast to help mitigate growth in costs through a focus on early intervention, mainstream inclusion, a widened further education offering and promotion of independence on the transition to adult services. We will also be investing in local special school place provision.

“However, despite these actions, in the absence of improved funding we forecast that the in-year high needs deficit will increase to £7m by 2021/22 with an accumulated DSG deficit of £25.7m by the end of that financial year.”   

Cllr Brown has extended an invite to Mr Williamson to come and visit the borough to see for himself the excellent work being done to support our most vulnerable students despite financial constraints and to hear from families, teachers and children’s service staff on why a more sustainable funding approach is so urgently needed.

He added:

“It is time the Government stepped up to the plate and backed the young people of this borough and beyond.

“If the Secretary of State comes to this borough and talks to our teachers and our parents and our service members he will find a group of people who all want young people with special educational needs to get the support they deserve. He will see for himself that despite cut after cut from central government we, together with our schools and parents are continuing to deliver quality SEND support.

“But he also needs to understand that the government can no longer continue to rely on local authorities, teachers and families to cover up their deficiencies when it comes to SEND. There is no time to waste. Mr Williamson needs to put the SEND funding crisis at the very top of his agenda.”

Add your voice to the call and write to the Secretary of State for Education.

Read the letter

Notes for editors

If you are a journalist and would like further information about this press release, contact Lyle Skipsey on 020 8487 5182.

Reference: P240/19

Updated: 24 March 2021