Chancellor Rishi Sunak has unveiled a Budget and spending review on the 27th October which he claimed will deliver the high skill, high wage economy promised at the Conservative Party Conference.
Here we look at those aspects of the budget which have the potential to affect children and young people with SEND, together with their parents, carers and educators.
The spending review included a £560m cash injection for youth services and an investment of £500m in supporting families and early years, including a network of ‘family hubs’.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said his youth services package ‘was enough to fund up to 300 youth clubs across the country’ and the Spending Review offered more money for childcare providers and early years staff training and development.
The chancellor said the Spending Review ‘also delivers our commitment to schools’, with an extra £4.7bn by 2024-25, ‘which combined with the ambitious plans we announced in the Spending Review of 2019, will restore per pupil funding to 2010 levels in real terms, equivalent to a cash increase for every pupil of more than £1,500.’
Mr Sunak said that for children with special educational needs and disabilities, ‘we are more than tripling the amount we invest to create 30,000 new school places’. In addition to the £3.1bn already announced to help with education recovery, the chancellor said he was today confirming a further ‘just under £2bn of new funding’ for schools and colleges, bringing total support to almost £5bn.
Although generally welcomed, the spending review still leaves several unanswered questions regarding the future funding in the SEND sector. The review highlights the urgent need for the Government to both identify and address the funding needs of the sector going forward.
In response to the announcement, President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services Charlotte Ramsden said:
‘Today’s multi-year funding settlement provides some vital additional funds for children and families, many of whom continue to feel the effects of the pandemic in their day to day lives . Extra funding for the Supporting Families programme, school places for children with SEND, funding for youth work and the expansion of Family Hubs is recognition of the need for national investment in children and families, especially in relation to earlier help, something that has been absent in recent years.’
‘Whilst it is positive that extra funding has been allocated to develop more school places for children with SEND, this will take time to deliver and only alleviates some of the substantial pressures in the system. We still await the outcome of the SEND review which must address the systemic challenges we now face in the delivery of our statutory duties.’
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:
‘The additional recovery funding announced today is welcome, though it falls far short of the £13-15bn independent experts have said is needed.
‘Children and young people have been hugely affected by the pandemic. The government has made bold claims about ‘levelling up’ and ‘no child left behind’. The investment announced today doesn’t meet those goals or the future needs of the country.
‘The increase in per pupil spending announced by the government takes us back to 2010 levels. This is no proud boast, as it represents a failure to invest in children’s futures for over a decade.
‘Schools will do their best with what they are given, as they always do. It is important that schools are able to spend recovery money flexibly on the programmes they know work best for the children in most need in their schools.
‘Two of the biggest areas of concern for schools are special educational needs funding and children’s mental health. The government urgently needs to publish the findings of their SEND review and commit the money needed to address the SEND crisis in schools. It is unacceptable that two years on from starting the review, the government has still not taken any action.
‘Overall, this is a much-needed investment for schools, but it still doesn’t fully recognise that education is an investment in not only our children’s life chances, but in the nation’s future.’
Jane Harley, Policy and Partnerships Director at Oxford University Press highlighted the need for greater accessibility to technology for teachers and learners. Commenting on the Budget she said:
‘Providing support to learners, teachers, and indeed parents to help young people catch up with what they have missed is imperative – whether it be socialization skills, addressing their wellbeing, engagement and motivation, or helping to narrow the widening word gap. However, while additional funding for schools is encouraging, the Budget does little to reassure us that disadvantaged students, whose learning suffered the most during lockdowns, will definitely get the support they need. What we saw during lockdown was a stark digital divide, with children from disadvantaged backgrounds unable to access digital learning. If we truly want to level up, we need investment in digital skills and infrastructure, training and resources that meet pupils’ needs, alongside support for tutoring , to ensure that those who have been most affected do not slip further behind.’
Throughout the pandemic, disabled people, many of whom use social care, have felt forgotten by Government, despite being some of the hardest hit. Disabled people accounted for nearly six out of 10 people who died with coronavirus in England in 2020, according to data from the Office for National Statistics. The national disability charity Sense is calling for the funding for local Government and education announced in today’s budget, to be ringfenced for disabled adults and children. Sense Chief Executive Richard Kramer said:
‘This Government has promised to ‘level up’ for everyone in the UK, but it must make sure it does so for disabled adults and their families. Government must ensure it actually delivers the real change that is needed for disabled people.
‘Social care has consistently been treated as a second class citizen, as a service which props up the NHS, both before and during the pandemic. Social care remains the perpetual neglected and poorer cousin to the NHS. Disabled people haven’t been getting the support they need, families have been caring for disabled loved ones without any respite and the workforce is burnt out. Any new funding for Local Authorities must include ring-fenced money for social care or we will continue to see disabled people going without the care they need.
‘The last 18 months have also been extremely difficult for disabled children and their families, with disruption to their education and a lack of clarity in guidance having a huge impact on their mental and physical wellbeing. Now more than ever we need increased investment in specialist educational support for disabled children and young people, not just restoring it to a level it was at decades ago. Alongside this, we need to see additional investment and integration with children’s social care and support for families and siblings.
‘Now is the time for urgent and meaningful investment. Government must keep disabled people and their families at the heart of these funding announcements for social care and and education to make sure they are not left behind and we are levelling up for everyone, not just the few.’
In response to the additional funding for children and families, Anna Feuchtwang, Chief Executive of the National Children’s Bureau, said:
‘Today’s Budget and Spending Review could be a turning point for children and families. The prominence given to the needs of babies, children and young people in the Chancellor’s speech, when they’ve been all too often ignored in previous budget announcements, provides a glimmer of hope that we are embarking on a new direction.
‘Working with 100’s of organisations from across the children’s sector, the #BuildBackChildhood campaign put the case for investment in the early years, prevention and early intervention, and addressing the squeeze on living standards for families. The Treasury has listened to many of our arguments and we applaud them for that. The new investment and additional financial support announced today will undoubtedly make a difference to many families.
‘But creating lasting change must mean sustained improvement in local authority budgets for children and families too. Investment is still urgently needed in health visiting, childcare and early education, children’s social care, and support for disabled children.
‘And while money for public services is vital, high rates of child poverty remain an insurmountable barrier to levelling up opportunities for children. Rises to the national living wage and the taper rate for Universal Credit are positive moves but more is needed for children growing up in households with nobody working. Rising insecurity, debt, homelessness and hunger is not the context in which plans to build back childhood can succeed.’
So, although welcome, the additional funding from the spending review needs to be focussed on those areas of greatest need. The most obvious unknown with regard to future funding lies in the SEND review, for that we must continue to wait…