A senior Yorkshire council chief will issue a “call to arms” today over special needs support for young people amid warnings of unsustainable pressure on services and rising overspends totalling £123m for the region’s authorities.
An inclusion summit in York, to be attended by council leaders and executives from across the North, is to look at challenges around special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
More must be done to protect the most vulnerable, Richard Flinton, the chief executive of host authority North Yorkshire County Council is to say, calling on government to urgently meet with council leaders.
The warning comes as the Government today announced thousands of new school places are being created for children with special educational needs or those facing additional challenges in mainstream education.
In total 37 special free schools and two alternative provision free schools are to open, including five in Yorkshire and the Humber. The Department for Education says this will create more than 500 new places in the region.
Mr Flinton will today issue a “call to arms” over support for young people and their families as demand rises amidst a funding formula “too routed in historic spend”.
“The pressure caused by this demand is not sustainable,” he is to say, dismissing a one-off allocation of £350m in Government funding as nothing more than a “sticking plaster” .
“We urgently need Department for Education, Ministers and officials to sit down with representatives from local government to look at how we can, together, make the case for more funding and how, together, we can make the system work more effectively.”
Today, as it emerges the collective high needs overspend for the region since SEND reforms were introduced in 2014 has reached £123m, Mr Flinton is to call for a unified strategy.
Urgent action is needed to make a joint approach to the Treasury, he is to say, as representatives from 39 authorities gather in Yorkshire for the conference.
Across the North, he adds, there are countless individuals undertaking a “heroic task” in doing the best they can for the most vulnerable.
“We now need a national call to arms to help them and to enable young people and their families to face their difficult circumstances with more hope and with more support.”
Specialist care plan provision has increased 38 per cent since 2015, with 287,000 young people now in receipt of special needs support in the North.
A coalition of councils across Yorkshire issued a direct appeal to the Chancellor in November, warning they faced a potential overspend of £43m this year alone.
The rare appeal warned support systems in the region are buckling for the most vulnerable, with funding being diverted from vital services and already struggling schools to deal with the crisis.
Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, added that the nation’s most vulnerable were being “dealt a poor hand”.