£42 million package to renew existing contracts with SEND projects announced
The Government says new funding will help improve existing services and continue to provide practical support to children with special educational needs and disabilities, but recent research finds that support levels have fallen as a result of coronavirus restrictions.
The UK Government has announced a £42 million funding package for current projects that support children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
The funding will allow existing contracts and grants to be re-awarded, which the Government says will enable schools, colleges, families and local authorities, to support thousands of children with SEND.
The funding announcement follows recent research found that children with special educational needs struggled to receive the required level of support outlined in their Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) during the first lockdown last year.
Released by the Nuffield Foundation earlier in February, the research found that over three quarters of children in special schools had received little to none of the level of care required between March and August 2020.
The Foundation found that the combination of school closures, work-from-home orders for social workers, and a directive from Government that relaxed requirements for local authorities to meet support levels outlined in EHCPs, resulted in many children with SEND losing access to vital services.
As a result, education providers said that they felt they were required to support pupils where possible alongside parents who often struggled with balancing caring and teaching a child with SEND, whilst trying to work from home themselves.
“It is impossible to educate a child with SEND who requires a 1-1 and also work full-time especially with another child who also requires attention and education,” one parent was quoted as reporting to the Nuffield Foundation.
“There is a reason he needs specialist teaching and a 1-1. Also, I am not a therapist either. He needs the therapy.”
Schools, colleges and parents reported to the foundation that inability for children with SEND to receive the necessary support from services during the first lockdown led to a regression of children’s skills and abilities and increased social isolation and mental health issues for both the pupils and their parents.
The report recommended additional help for parents and education providers to ensure that children with SEND received the support they required and were not detrimentally affected by being forced to learn from home during the current lockdown, with schools in England not set to open until 8 March at the earliest.
In a statement on the new funding announcement, the Government said: “This investment will ensure that specialist organisations around the country can continue their work to help strengthen local area performance, support families and provide practical support to schools and colleges.
“It will strengthen participation of parents and young people in the SEND system – ensuring they have a voice in designing policies and services and have access to high quality information, advice and support.”
Over half of the announced funding package (£27 million) has been allocated for the Family Fund; a funding scheme that supports low-income parents raising children with serious illnesses or disabilities with the cost of specialist equipment or services.
In addition, the Government confirmed it would be extending an advice helpline and increasing funding by £2,500 for local parent carer forums, as well as supporting councils to reassess provisions of local services and improving training for education staff.
Amanda Batten, CEO of the support charity Contact welcomed the additional funding announcement and highlighted the work that parent care forums have continued to do throughout the pandemic.
“We particularly welcome the funding increase for parent carer forums which will help their sustainability during such challenging times, and their role as strategic partners to ensure the best possible services for children and young people with SEND,” said Batten.
“The pandemic has hit many of the families Contact supports hard and the work of forums across the country has been essential during this time.”
Tina Emery and Mrunal Sisodia, Co-chairs of National Network of Parent Carer Forums said:
“The National Network of Parent Carer Forums are really pleased that there is an extension to the strategic participation contract, and we look forward to working with all parties within the consortium over the coming year.
“We are delighted that the DfE has recognised the difference that forums make, which is reflected in the £2500 increase in the grant funding.”
Read the full story on the Nuffield Foundation’s recent research report here:
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