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Number of children with special needs reaches record levels highlighting urgency of SEND reform

Date:8 JUL 2024
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The number of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) receiving support from councils has reached a record high, new figures published today reveal.

Councils issued 84,428 Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs), which set out the provision of SEND support for each person, in 2023 – an increase of 26.6 per cent on the previous year. The number has risen each year since 2014.

As of January 2024, there are now 575,963 children and young people with an EHCP.

Requests for an assessment have also increased by 20.8 per cent since the previous year.

The Local Government Association, which represents councils, says the rising need and cost pressures make it imperative that whoever forms the next government reforms the SEND system.

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The increase in EHCPs is also driving escalating costs of home-to-school transport for children with SEND, with budgets up by 23.3 per cent in 2023/24 compared to the previous year. Budgeted net spend in 2023/24 is £1.4 billion – a 137 per cent cash terms increase since 2016/17.

The LGA is calling for an improvement to mainstream inclusion of children with SEND, as well as the scrapping of the high needs deficits councils have built up because of the spiralling costs of providing support outstripping the SEND budgets available to councils. These currently stand at an estimated £1.9 billion.

Cllr Louise Gittins, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said:

“Councils want to be able to provide the very best support to children with special educational needs and their families.

“However, these record figures are a reminder of the huge pressure councils are under, with the number of EHCPs increasing every year since they were introduced in 2014.

“It is absolutely vital whoever forms the next government brings forward proposals without delay to reform the SEND system, with a focus on improving levels of mainstream inclusion, as well as write off councils’ high needs deficits.”