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SEND Funding Is Changing – How Will It Affect Your Setting?

Fairer funding for settings working with children with special educational needs? Let's hope that's the case

  • SEND Funding Is Changing – How Will It Affect Your Setting?

Last December, the Department for Education (DfE) finally outlined changes to the funding provision of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). These include the introduction of a disability element to the base rate, a SEND Inclusion Fund and a Disability Access Fund. However, some providers are concerned that some of the changes could have a negative impact on the sector.

Funding pots

Unlike schools, early years providers don’t have a notional SEND budget. They must meet the needs of most children using their core budget. However, if a child’s needs cannot be met from that budget, and they don’t have an Educational Health and Care plan, providers can request a top-up from their local authority (LA).

Eligibility criteria for this top-up was previously determined by a set of local SEND descriptors, with school forums overseeing the process and determining the outcome of applications. Previously, some LAs have used their high needs funding block to provide this support. This block is one of the three main education funding sources.

As of April 2017, this process changed. All LAs are now required to provide an early years SEND inclusion fund. This fund is created by pooling an amount of funding from either one or both of their early years and high needs funding blocks. Some settings have raised concerns that their LAs plan to source the inclusion pot solely from the early years funding. They maintain that this will cause a shortfall in the new local funding formula rate – resulting in a much lower figure than previously suggested by the DfE.

Another element to the inclusion fund is that LAs are now able to use part of the fund to support specialist services. Some of these services will be delivered to providers free at the point of use. Alternatively, some LAs may wish to offer specialist services, using a buy-back model to charge providers. This will mean that some providers may need to buy their own training for inclusion and safeguarding.

Schools forums

There is very little detail in the reforms about the role of the schools forums but it’s thought that most LAs will continue to manage the process. Children attending provision with lower levels or emerging SEND will be eligible for the fund. Each application will be judged on a case-by-case basis. However, it’s likely that each LA may take a slightly different approach.

We know from our own, as well as the government’s, research that early years top-up funding has often been hard to secure. Hopefully, this new process will improve access to top-up funding for providers. However, schools forums are only required to give special consideration to applications so providers are advised to ensure that their application can stand up to robust scrutiny.

Providers will need to demonstrate in their applications that the child has received suitable support, and that their needs are significantly outside and beyond what can be provided for by using resources currently available to the setting. Both tracking and interventions of the child’s progress should be clearly recorded on supporting documentation.

Other evidence settings may need to provide includes

External evidence to support the child’s identified need and any subsequent assessment and planning
Data collected to show the child’s progress to date – this may include observations, assessments and associated SEN action plans detailing interventions and adjustments
Evidence to show that interventions and adjustments have been applied over time, but the child has failed to make suitable progress.

If an application is turned down, despite having a solid case for funding, and refused at appeal, providers can advise parents to apply to the LA for a statutory assessment for their child.

This article is an edited version of one that originally appeared in the Pre-school Learning Alliance’s membership magazine, Under 5. For more information on the upcoming funding changes, get a copy of the Alliance’s guide online at pre-school.org.uk/EYguide.

Nicola Gibson is inclusion manager at the Pre-school Learning Alliance.

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