Torbay Council is welcoming the allocation of ringfenced government funding to help reduce the deficit in its Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG).
Like many other local authorities across England, this has occurred due to the growth in demand for children with special educational needs. The council has now agreed a management plan with the Department for Education (DfE) to mitigate the increasing financial pressures.
In February last year, the DfE invited the council, along with a number of other councils, to take part in the Safety Valve Intervention Programme.
This programme aims to agree a package of reform to bring the DSG deficit under control by reducing the spend on the high needs budget. This is the element of the grant used to directly support children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and has experienced pressures.
Since then, the council has been working closely with the DfE and has agreed a deliverable and proportionate management plan that will bring the budget back in line without affecting its financial reserves and still meet the needs of local children and young people.
The plan is based on tackling the variety of issues at the heart of the matter. This includes offering and enhancing the early intervention offer and support for children with SEND.
Meeting need much earlier will reduce the need for costly Education Health and Care Plans (EHCP), offering support that families and their children need, preventing issues from escalating.
This will be supported by our early help model and the roll out of our family hubs.
As part of the agreement, DfE has committed to supporting Torbay by agreeing £12.9m of funding over the next five years. This will enable the council to balance the budget by the end of 2025-26.
The action plan includes a number of improvements to SEND provision, including:
– Offering and enhancing early intervention and support for children with SEND, thereby reducing the need for Educational Health Care Plans.
– Rolling out the new Family Hubs across Torbay.
– Maintaining existing special school numbers through increasing parental confidence and provision within mainstream settings.
– Creating a culture of change in SEND services.
– Building confidence among parents and carers.
– Setting up a Transitions Panel for the over 16s to include targeted employment and education support.
Councillor Cordelia Law, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said: “We are pleased to receive confirmation that our dedicated school grant management plan has been accepted and that we will be receiving funding support.
“Like other local authorities, we have had to address and resolve a difficult position due to the demand for special educational needs provision.
“The safety valve plan we submitted ensures the focus stays on meeting the needs of our most vulnerable children by investing in early intervention, but also supports mainstream schools to enable greater inclusion and targeted support.”
Councillor Jackie Stockman, Cabinet Member for Adults and Public Health, said: “This agreement will enable the council to bring the deficit back in line while ensuring we continue to prioritise and support children and young people with special educational needs.
“We will continue to support and celebrate young people and adults whose needs have been met through our targeted responses to special educational needs or through Education Health and Care Plans and can now obtain the help they need through alternative support programmes.”