Extra special needs funding for kids will ‘barely touch surface’ in Hackney

A huge protest took place outisde Hackney Town Hall. Picture: Melissa Byers

A huge protest took place outisde Hackney Town Hall. Picture: Melissa Byers - Credit: Archant

Extra funding for children with special educational needs and disabilities will “barely touch the surface”, according to Hackney Council.

As part of the government’s bid to alleviate the strain on town hall budgets across the capital, £21million has been awarded to councils to help provide specialist support for SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) children.

Once divvied up, Hackney’s share of the extra cash comes to a little over £650,000 each year in 2019-20, an amount that will still leave councillors in the education department with headaches.

Thanks to a long term funding freeze, the council has the daunting task of trying to plug a funding gap this year of about £7.7million, so it can continue to provide support for SEND kids in Hackney.

This is in part down to the government extending the criteria for SEND support in 2014, meaning the council now supports 36 per cent more children and young people than in 2013, and for much longer – until they’re 25 – but didn’t provide councils with the extra funding to pay for it.

SEND chief Cllr Chris Kennedy said: “We’ve long been calling on the government to address the funding crisis in SEND education, which is affecting councils across the country.

“While the extra funding is of course welcome, it will barely touch the surface.

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“This is against a backdrop of unprecedented cuts to local authorities and the continued rise in the numbers of children with SEND. If the government wants to make a real difference, it should undertake a full review of SEND funding to ensure every child in this country gets the support they are entitled to and deserve.”

Education secretary Damien Hinds has also pledged to create more specialist places in mainstream places, give more special free schools the green light and train more educational psychologists.

“We recognise the high needs budget faces significant pressures and this additional investment will help councils to manage them, while being able to invest in more support,” he said.

“Every school should be one for a young person with special educational needs; every teacher should be equipped to teach them, and families need to feel supported.”

There will also be an increase in the number of educational psychologists, responsible for assessing children’s needs and providing support.