Devon special education deficit to be tackled with £95m deal

Elaine Davis-Kimble
Elaine Davis-Kimble said there was no money in the mainstream sector

Devon County Council has agreed a deal with the government to tackle a massive budget deficit on special needs education.

The authority's spending on education for children with special needs and disabilities (SEND) is due to create a deficit of £163m by the end of March.

The government will contribute £95m over nine years to reduce the deficit.

The county council will have to contribute £20m from its financial reserves plus an annual £5m payment.

Devon is one of several councils to get money under the Safety Valve programme.

In 2018 and in 2022, inspectors found Devon County Council (DCC) had failed to make sufficient progress in tackling four areas of significant weakness.

Work with partners

Devon's Cabinet member for SEND, Lois Samuel, Conservative, said the deal "not only provides the framework for service improvement but also puts the authority back onto a sustainable financial footing".

Ms Samuel said: "We now need to work increasingly closely with our partners in schools and the NHS."

The action plan agreed with the government includes improving the inclusive capacity of Devon's mainstream schools, ensuring sufficient special school places and improving early intervention.

The council has also set aside a further £10m this year to help bring down the deficit.

The government will contribute £38m by the end of March with the remaining cash spread out over the following eight years.

Devon County Council headquarters seen from the outside
Devon County Council is facing a £163m deficit on special needs education

Elaine Davis-Kimble, from campaign group SEND Parents for Change, said the money would pay the deficit but would not solve the underlying problems.

"The council's obsession with reducing educational health care plans across the county and integrating more children and young people with SEND into mainstream schools is not going to solve the problem," she said.

"There is no money in the mainstream sector, they are not getting enough from the government.

"They cannot accommodate the complex needs of these children."

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