Safety valve funding protects SEND in four more councils

Bracknell Forest Borough Council, Bristol City Council, Devon County Council and Wiltshire Council all received millions to make up deficit in dedicated schools grant. 

Local councils across the country are struggling with budgets, which is having a serious impact on much-needed services. One key area of concern is the number of councils forecasting multi-million-pound deficits in the dedicated schools grant, with a corresponding threat to children and young people who have additional needs. 

boy in black hoodie sitting on chair

Photo by Taylor Flowe

As just one example, Bristol City Council has revealed that cost of its current special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) services are set to rise to £133m in the next two years. 

Since 2021, the government has been helping to bailout councils facing high levels of deficit, on the condition that they reform services. To date, 34 local authorities have agreed to this kind of ‘safety valve’ intervention by the Department for Education (DfE), which entails detailed high needs reforms and savings targets.  

That inevitably raises concerns that this will necessitate a considerable cut in SEND provision. The SV agreements published by DfE set out how the bailout money will be used to improve and enhance services. Now the announcement of four more councils signing such agreements brings the total number receiving SV funding to 38. 

Of these four, Devon County Council will receive £88.7m in instalments between now and 2031-32 to improve early years intervention, meet the needs of children and young people with SEND and develop shared pathways into adulthood. 

Wiltshire Council will receive £67m between now and 2028-29 to provide earlier support for children and young people with SEND, providing the right support first time to prevent the need for escalation. The money will also be used to increase numbers of special school placements. 

Bristol City Council will receive £53.8m between now and 2029-30 to produce a city-wide SEND inclusion strategy. There will also be wide-reaching work to support children and young people with EHCPs in mainstream settings. 

Bracknell Forest Borough Council will receive £16m between now and 2029-30 to strengthen early years intervention services and make schools more inclusive. A new autism free school and SEMH free school will also help to expand provision. 

Further details are set out in the agreements, which you can read via the link above. Having agreed terms, each council needs to report on progress regularly to DfE. 

A spokesperson for Bristol City Council says: ‘The council will work closely with parents, carers, school leaders and partner organisations to develop and implement the safety valve programme together and will engage closely with stakeholders in the coming weeks to answer any questions.  

‘The council will also work to co-design, with schools, a standard practice of excellence in supporting children and young people with SEND via local authority-commissioned SEND school improvement officers.’ 

In related news:

MPs warn schools sex education curriculum is failing children

Autism research doesn’t prioritise what autistic people want – new study 

Childline gets 40 calls a day from unhappy children


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