Extra £10million needed for special needs in Dorset

Extra £10million needed for special needs in Dorset

Published by George Sharpe at 12:01am 6th September 2019.

AN extra £10million a year is needed in Dorset to cope with the growing needs of children and young people with additional education needs.

Dorset Council director for schools and learning, Mark Blackman, says that without extra Government cash the county will continue to struggle to offer a decent service to those classed as being in Special Educational Need or with a Disability (SEND).

He gave the figure during a discussion by councillors on the corporate parenting board.

“This is a demand-led service and demand is growing, but the money coming in through our front door is not,” he said.

“There is no doubt we need more resource. In reality we need another £10million a year to address these challenges.”

Figures before the committee show that the annual number of children and young people with an Educational Health and Care Plan agreed now stands at around 2,500 and is predicted to rise to 2,750 by 2022 adding to financial pressures on the budget.

A report says there has been a significant demand for SEND statutory assessments since the start of 2015 when reforms to the service came into place, with an 71% increase in the number of EHCPs.

Dorset SEND children, especially those in care, have poorer educational and employment outcomes.
Dorset SEND children, especially those in care, have poorer educational and employment outcomes.

Cabinet briefholder for children and education Cllr Andrew Parry said the Council was on the side of families and wanted to offer what support it could, “but we can only do that with the intervention of central government funding,” he said.

The annual Dorset SEND report shows that children with an EHCP, especially those in care, have poorer outcomes in terms of education and employment, than their peers.

Half of the county’s looked after children with an EHCP are now being educated in specialist placements, compared to other children not in care with an EHCP, where the figure is 36 per cent. Of those specialist placements almost four in ten are outside Dorset, although more places are being made available within the county.

The council has also acknowledged that it needs to start iproving its provision for young people who are 16+ with social, emotional and mental health needs.

A report to the board said that while some places will be provided for those up to 18 at a new specialist school at Bovington, these will only be available in three or four-years’ time. Those who are 16-plus currently account for 28 per cent of the Dorset Council area total with an EHCP.

By Local Democracy Reporter, Trevor Bevins