The government’s latest figures show that 315 extra pupils in Tower Hamlets received a new Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan in 2018.
EHC plans are for children and young people aged up to 25 who need more support than is available through special educational needs support. EHC plans identify educational, health and social needs and set out the additional support to meet those needs.
Councils have seen rapid rises in demand for support following changes to legislation in 2014 which extended eligibility for support to the 16 to 25 age group.
In the five year period since 2014, Tower Hamlets Council has seen an increase of over 57% in children and young people with EHC plans, or in their previous form SEN statements, from 1,805 in 2014 to 2,842 in 2019.
This increase in demand for SEND services comes at a time when council funding has fallen dramatically through government austerity. Tower Hamlets’ core funding is £148m lower this year compared with 2010 – the equivalent of 64%.
The Local Government Association estimates that councils in England are facing a SEND funding gap of up to £1.6 billion by 2021.
Earlier this year, figures from the National Education Union revealed that Tower Hamlets has lost out on £7.7m of special needs funding from government. This is because the funding granted to local councils has failed to keep up with rapidly increasing demand.
Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs said: “Special needs funding faces a crisis across the UK as demand for services increases despite shrinking budgets. Local councils are already under enormous pressure and we urgently need the government to ensure that funding can match demand so we can provide these crucial frontline services for some of the most vulnerable in our society. When people talk about ‘austerity’ and ‘cuts’ it can sound very technical. This is a very real example of what it means.”
Councillor Danny Hassell, Cabinet Member for Children, Schools and Young People, said: “The Tory record on special needs funding is shameful. We’re seeing year on year increases in the number of children and young people who need our support and yet the government has failed to give us the funding we need. This is a major national issue and the government needs to step up.”