Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs and Cllr Danny Hassell have written to the Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson MP to say that the current increase in SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) funding is insufficient to cover rising demand and the historic deficit caused by years of underfunding by government.

Tower Hamlets has among the highest proportion of children and young people with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) in the country. Between 2017 and 2020 the percentage of pupils with an Education, Health and Care Plan increased from 4.2% to 5.1% and the number of residents (aged 0-25) with an EHCP increased by 803 and currently totals circa 3,200.

Tower Hamlets’ High Needs Funding Block (HNFB), which funds SEND services, has an accumulated deficit of £11.1m, meaning action is required to address the deficit and cope with the increasing demand for SEND services.

Their letter to the Secretary of State states that the recent funding increase is ‘essentially plugging the gaps from previous years, instead of paying for services to cover the increasing demand we’re seeing at present.’

Mayor Biggs and Cllr Hassell are calling on the government to further increase funding for the HNFB so services can cover the growing demand for SEND services among children and young people in Tower Hamlets.

John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: “SEND services are so important for many families in Tower Hamlets, improving the lives and supporting the development of children and young people.

“While we welcome the recent funding increase, it doesn’t go far enough nor does it fix the damage caused by years of underfunding which has left us with a big deficit that needs filled. We need the Government to recognise the importance of SEND services and give us the funding we need to provide the services.”

Cllr Danny Hassell, Cabinet Member for Children & Schools, said: “Parents are understandably worried about the future of services if the Government doesn’t provide proper funding. While any increase in funds is welcome, the current increase just plugs the gaps from previous years and doesn’t account for the increasing demand for SEND services.

“We’re calling for a further increase in funding that will enable us to cover the historic deficit so that we can focus on service provision to meet the growing demand for SEND services amongst our children and young people.”

Text of the letter sent to the Education Secretary:

We write in relation to the Higher Needs Funding Block (HNFB) for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). As you know, Tower Hamlets has been keen to highlight the funding shortfalls for SEND provision and we welcome the Department for Education’s decision to increase HNFB in Tower Hamlets to £59.7m this year.

Tower Hamlets has among the highest proportions of children and young people with Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP) in the country. Between 2017 and 2020 the percentage of pupils with an Education, Health and Care Plan increased from 4.2% to 5.1% and the number of residents (aged 0-25) with an EHCP increased by 803 and currently totals circa 3,200.

The needs of children and young people are also changing rapidly. Over the three years 2017-20, the percentage of children with whose primary need is Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has increased from 9% to 12.8% and the percentage of young people with EHCPs attending post 16 institutions increased from 3.4% to 13.9%.

To meet this need we are increasing the number of school places for children with ASD through expanding Phoenix special school and establishing a new ASD resource base in one of our mainstream primary schools. This means an additional circa £2m per annum spending on funding these new school places and we have also increased the commission for Phoenix to provide outreach to mainstream schools.

Because of years of under-funding, our current HNFB has accumulated a deficit of £11.1m. This means that despite the recent funding increase, we will still be forced to cut current costs in order to address the deficit. In other words, the funding increase is essentially plugging the gaps from previous years, instead of paying for services to cover the increasing demand we’re seeing at present.

In order to resolve this issue, we’re calling for a further increase in funds that accounts for the historic deficit and the need to increase service provision to cover the growing demand for SEND services among our young population.

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