I recently held a meeting with Education Secretary, Damien Hinds MP, to lobby for extra resources for children’s services in North Yorkshire.
The local authority is under significant financial pressure with an £11m overspend on children’s services this year, most of which is attributable to extra responsibilities required by Westminster. The Children and Family Act 2014 introduced Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs), which raised the expectations for what councils would need to do to support children with special educational needs.
The money for this was based on an historic formula that is not keeping pace with rising demand; each EHCP costs £8k leading to an overspend of over £6m.
Demand for EHCPs have increased from 1,747 in 2014/15 to 2,550 at the end of 2017; the forecasts show this increasing further still and could rise to 3,900 by 2027. The benefits of this are enormous as diagnoses are better honed and life expectancy has increased for those with complex needs. However, the costs must be met. Councillor Carl Les said “at North Yorkshire County Council we have been innovative in our approach to the extent that Ofsted have given us the first outstanding rating in the country. But the quantum is increasing too, almost exponentially, and innovation can maintain the standards of service, but we need serious help to deal with the rising demand”.
North Yorkshire is the 12th lowest funded authority on a per pupil basis out of 150 for high needs. At my meeting, I pressed the Secretary of State to update the formula and see a fairer amount of funding allocated to my constituency.
High needs and school funding are funded by the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) and these reserves are under severe pressure in North Yorkshire. The meeting gave me the opportunity to highlight the financial pressure North Yorkshire County Council is under due to insufficient DSG, which falls under the remit of the Department for Education.
The Chief Executive of North Yorkshire County Council, Richard Flinton, said “funding to support young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities should be based on an up to date assessment of need and not an out of date historic formula that is currently the situation. Without more funding from central government we run the risk of having to reduce other services to meet these costs. We are therefore very grateful for the help of Kevin Hollinrake MP to raise these important concerns with Ministers”.
I will now write to the Secretary of State for Education and to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, co-signed by neighbouring colleagues, to continue my fight for fairer funding.