Children’s Commissioner calls for more SEND funding

Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England

Political parties are being advised to provide adequate funding for special education needs and disabilities (SEND) support, as part of a manifesto set out by the Children’s Commissioner for England.

Ahead of an upcoming general election, Anne Longfield has published Guess How Much We Love You: A Manifesto for Children, calling for parties to include a six-point plan in their manifestos to help disadvantaged children.

The document focuses on key themes, which include supporting stronger families, supplying decent places for children to live, providing SEND support for those who need it, and creating safer streets and play areas.

The commissioner has called on a child and adolescent mental health service counsellor to be available in every school so children can have access to support.

She said adequate funding for SEND was needed as there was a lack of suitable school places for children with high needs, with the system patching up problems and failing young people rather than helping them.

The report said: ‘More than four children in the average classroom will have special educational needs and they account for nearly half the 41 pupils permanently excluded from school every day.

‘Reforms to the SEND system five years ago were well-intentioned but poorly funded; leaving a £1.8bn shortfall in funding by 2021/22, only £700m of which will be met from the additional funding promised to schools.’

Last week’s spending round announced by the Chancellor Sajid Javid said councils would receive £3.5bn next year for services, including those for young people.

The Department for Education has also said it will be launching a review of reforms it put in place in 2014 to improve support for children with additional needs.

Longfield said the next government should also establish a cross-government cabinet committee for children.

‘The building blocks of a good childhood haven’t changed – secure relationships, a decent home and inspiring schools,’ She said. ‘I want politicians to think seriously about whether they are truly prioritising these things for children. I’ve heard more national political conversation about HS2, water nationalisation and tax cuts – and of course Brexit – than I have about children.

‘We should be ashamed that there are literally millions of kids in England not having the childhood we in a decent society would want them to have. Yet none of this is inevitable: we get the society we choose. The right help at the right time pays dividends – to the children, to society and the public purse, now and in the future.’

Councillor Judith Blake, Local Government Association’s children and young people board chair, said: ‘We have worked hard to demonstrate the unprecedented demand councils face supporting children with special needs, so we are pleased the government is listening and has provided £700m for these services next year. We look forward to the review into SEND services and hope that this will lead to increased and sustained funding for this area.’