Tower Hamlets parents, pupils, schools, the National Education Union and Tower Hamlets Council came together on Friday (28th February 2020) to issue a £12m invoice to the Prime Minister to cover the cost of the SEND crisis. The invoice, which has been signed by hundreds of parents and school staff across Tower Hamlets, was handed in to 10 Downing Street after campaigners marched from Parliament Square to Downing Street.
The Government’s funding for Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) services has failed to keep pace with rapidly rising demand, leaving local councils across the UK to pick up the bill. National Education Union (NEU) research shows that ‘93% of local authorities have lost out on SEND funding since 2015 because of central government’s shortfall in special needs provision.’
The Local Government Association estimates that councils in England are facing a SEND funding gap of up to £1.6 billion by 2021.
In Tower Hamlets, the council received £49.7m for SEND funding in 2018/19 but spent more than £56m on services, with the overspend projected to reach £12m by 2022. The invoice demands that the Government fills in this shortfall with additional cash.
Alongside the invoice, Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs handed in a letter addressed to the PM urging him to increase high needs funding in the upcoming Government Budget. Last year Tower Hamlets Council agreed a motion calling on the Government to pick up the bill for the shortfall, and Cabinet Member Councillor Danny Hassell also led a cross-party letter from 26 London boroughs to the Education Secretary calling for an end to the funding crisis in SEND services.
Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs said: “Tower Hamlets is right on the frontline of the national high needs funding crisis, where growing demand means that we face a £12m gap in funding for our services. We believe that every child should be given the best start in life and I’m calling on the Government to use its upcoming Budget to inject extra money and ensure that SEND services are properly funded.”
Councillor Danny Hassell, Cabinet Member for Children, Schools and Young People, said: “Our SEND services support some of the most vulnerable children and young people in our society and ensure that they are given the best start in life. All of this is at risk though because of the SEND funding crisis. I hope delivering this invoice straight to Downing Street will send a clear message about how important it is that the SEND crisis is met head on.”
Alex Kenny, NEU District Secretary (Tower Hamlets and the City), said: “The campaign for proper funding to support children with special needs and disabilities goes to the heart of what the National Education Union stands for. We want a fully funded inclusive education system where the needs of all our children can be meet. It should shame our government that we have so many children out of school because lack of funding means that specialist support cannot be provided. We are proud to stand with our councillors and will continue to campaign for the funding our schools and children need.”