Council could allocate more cash for special needs

Suffolk council office
Image caption,

Suffolk council bosses could spend more on services for children with special educational needs

  • Published

Council bosses could spend more on services for children with special educational needs and disabilities (Send).

A member of Suffolk County Council has revealed plans to ask the authority's cabinet to allocate more money.

Andrew Reid, the council's cabinet member for education and Send, told of the proposals at a recent audit committee meeting.

He did not give detail on the amount of extra money that might be spent.

'Numerous requests'

In April, the council apologised to an autistic girl and her family after being criticised by an ombudsman, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

The Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman found the council had taken 18 months to create an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), despite pleas from the girl's mother.

Council bosses were told to pay £8,300 compensation.

An ombudsman's investigation found the child's mother had made “numerous requests” for the council to provide an educational package for her daughter to study away from school.

The ombudsman concluded “adequate provision was still not put in place” and that the council had taken 18 months to produce the EHCP instead of the required 20 weeks.

Image source, Suffolk County Council
Image caption,

Andrew Reid apologised on behalf of the council after criticism by an ombudsman earlier this year

Mr Reid, a Conservative, had apologised.

“We fully accept the findings of the ombudsman - our involvement has not been good enough," he had said.

“We know the areas where we must do better and there are significant plans in place to improve what we do."

'Priority action plan'

An Ofsted report, external in January had pointed to “widespread, systemic failings” in the council’s provision for children with special needs or disabilities.

A “priority action plan” was put in place following the report, and the Department for Education (DfE) said it was providing an extra £10.9m for Suffolk to create “new specialist places” for children with Send.

The ombudsman also pointed to “wider national systemic problems” with Send provision.

A DfE spokesperson had said there was an "ambitious" Send and alternative provision improvement plan in place.

“We are providing £2.6bn to support the creation of places for children and young people with Send or who require alternative provision, so parents can be reassured that their child will receive the right support at the right time, near home," the spokesperson said.

"Combined with the special free schools programme, this is creating over 60,000 new specialist places across the country.”

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