Many councils across the country — the National Audit Office estimates over two dozen — are negotiating with the government for bailouts to make it possible to balance their 2021-22 budgets. Cuts in school special needs and disabilities (SEND) spending are among those demanded “in return” by at least five councils.
Details for Bury, Hammersmith and Fulham, Kingston upon Thames, Richmond-upon Thames and Stoke on Trent have been published on the Department for Education website and reported by Schools Week. Some councils now promise to meet special needs in a “more cost-effective way within mainstream settings”, i.e. to axe separate special provision. Another common promise is to “improve efficiency of commissioning services to drive down costs”.
SEND funding has been squeezed for years, and the pandemic has increased the gap between need and provision. The labour movement should campaign to restore central funding for local services, not resign itself to “managing” the shortfalls.