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Statement on the provision and funding of special educational needs in Surrey

We know from our conversations and our work with families that there is anxiety about the future funding and provision for special educational needs in Surrey.  Families have expressed their concerns to us frankly and openly.  We hope that this statement will be the start of a conversation with service users and families as we work through the challenges of sustainable SEND resourcing.  No one, including the council, has easy answers to some tough questions. 

In 2017/18, the government High Needs Block funding for SEND was £143million and the council’s spend was £152m. This funding gap will increase as the rate of demand for services continues to significantly exceed the available funding. Like almost all other local authorities, the council is facing significant pressures in relation to growth and complexity of needs.

All of the grant that the council receives from national government through the High Needs Block funding is spent on SEND.  The council adheres to strict government criteria and ensures the grant is ring-fenced for this purpose.  The funding available provides direct support for individual children with additional needs, school places for children, the running costs of our maintained special schools and SEN centres, alternative learning for children who temporarily cannot attend school and programmes in Surrey’s schools for children with SEND, amongst other services and provision.

One of the strategies we are employing with some success is to maximise our purchasing power to get the best rates from providers that we possibly can. We are also placing renewed focus on inclusion, achieving and preparing children for adulthood. 

The Parliamentary Education Committee has recently launched two inquiries that are relevant to the issues and concerns that families are raising:

  • School and college funding
  • Support for children with special educational needs and disabilities

The SEND inquiry was launched on 18 April and the call for evidence is open until Thursday 14 June.  It is intended to review the success of the 2014 reforms to the SEND system, how they have been implemented and what impact they are having in meeting the challenges faced by children and young people with SEND.

The committee is asking for evidence on:

  • Assessment of and support for children and young people with SEND
  • The transition from statements of special educational needs and Learning Disability Assessments to Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs)
  • The level and distribution of funding for SEND provision
  • The roles of and co-operation between education, health and social care sectors
  • Provision for 19-25 year olds including support for independent living; transition to adult services; and access to education, apprenticeships and work

This will provide a valuable opportunity for parents and carers to provide direct evidence. The attached link contains further details https://www.parliament.uk/education-committee.

There are some areas of practice for SEND in Surrey that are stronger and positive. The council took recent steps to increase staffing levels of SEND teams by keeping on all the additional caseworkers brought in for the transitions work of statements to Education, Health and Care plans over the past few years.  These transitions teams are now part of our mainstream SEND teams and are bringing renewed capacity to our work with families.

On the issue of transitions to EHCPs, we, as other councils, provided a return on outstanding transfers to the DfE at the end of March 2018. We reported that there were only 9 outstanding transfers, with an explicit and known reason for each.  In Surrey 99.7% of transfers were completed by the deadline.  Our feedback from the DfE was a brief but positive ‘That is a great result – well done to you all!’  For the transfers remaining, we are working with each of the families to finalise the process quickly, and in the meantime maintaining provision for children exactly as it is.

We continue to maintain strong leadership of the Local Offer, with very experienced senior professionals providing oversight since its inception.  We are continuing to work to improve the content of the website and parents’ awareness of it, and have been working closely with the Co-Director of Special Needs Jungle on this over the past year.  Her support has been invaluable.  

There has been some public discussion of a proposed claim for judicial review against Surrey, however we have not received a claim.  Should we receive one, we will consider it very carefully and respond accordingly.

We are placing this statement on both the Local Offer and Surrey County Council’s website.