Education chiefs in Hertfordshire looking at SEN funding stream, after one area ran out of funds

The ongoing review emerged on Friday, when the issue was raised by Labour Cllr Sharon Taylor

Monday, 4th October 2021, 2:41 pm
Updated Monday, 4th October 2021, 2:44 pm

Education chiefs in Hertfordshire are urgently looking at a locally-administered stream of special needs funding – after one area of the county ran out of funds in less than three months.

‘Delivering Special Provision Locally’ (DSPL) funding – amounting to around £1.5m a year – is shared between nine areas of the county.

And each area can then use their share of the funding to focus provision on local need.

The image has been used for illustrative purposes

It is only one of the ways that funding for children with special educational needs is allocated in Hertfordshire.

And it’s designed to support children and young people with emerging high needs or who have needs that fall outside the Education and Health Care Plan (ECHP) process.

But that funding allocated to the Stevenage area – known as DSPL 2 – for the whole of 2021/2 ran out within three months.

And now director of children’s services Jo Fisher is said to be leading ‘an urgent piece of work’ to look at what has happened – and whether there are similar issues with DSPL funding in other areas of the county.

The ongoing review emerged on Friday, October 1, when the issue was raised by Labour Cllr Sharon Taylor, who is also leader of Stevenage Borough Council.

Cllr Taylor acknowledged that this was a very specific stream of special educational needs funding.

But she said this was causing ‘great distress’ to the parents that are supported by it.

She said headteachers and nursery providers had been told in writing that the ‘money had run out’ – and that basically there was no more.

And she said those affected were finding it very difficult to see how they were going to get through the year without the additional provision.

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat Cllr Sally Symington also pointed to significant pressures – with ‘families not being able to get EHCPs and being educated at home because they are not able to access the system’.

At the meeting assistant director for finance, Steven Pilsworth, acknowledged that there were undoubtedly huge pressures in SEND and SEND provision.

And he referenced the changes to the Care Act in 2014, which had expanded entitlement in terms of care, but had not come with government funding attached.

Mr Pilsworth said DSPL funding recognised that there were a number of children who did not have an EHCP, but who needed support.

And he said £1.5m had been set aside with a number of panels allocating those funds.

He said it had become apparent just over a week ago that one of the panels had ‘already exhausted’ the funds in that area.

And he said director of children’s services Jo Fisher was already leading an ‘urgent piece of work’ to understand why funds had been exhausted in that area – and to see if there was a similar pattern in other areas.

Cllr Taylor said she hoped that funding could be found to make up for the deficit in the Stevenage area – which would otherwise cause difficulties for the schools and nurseries accessing that support.

And she asked whether it would be possible for them to be given some reassurance – or for additional funding to be made available during the ongoing review, so that services would not have to stop.

The meeting of the county council’s resources and performance cabinet panel was held on Friday, October 1, and it can be viewed online.