The government is “leaving thousands of children in limbo” and breaching their human rights by underfunding education for those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), a court will hear.
High Court’s judges will today (June 26) consider whether the government’s allocated funding for providing education to children with SEND is lawful.
The judicial review is being brought by three families who argue that local authorities have been unable to support their children’s educational needs due to a gap in funding from central government.
Image Credit: Flickr.
Among the claimants is Dakota Riddell, from Birmingham, who suffers from a number of disabilities including cerebral palsy, global developmental disorder, seizure disorder.
The nine-year-old has extensive needs and an educational healthcare plan (EHC) was drawn up to support her in 2016. However, despite changes in her needs, it was not updated by her local authority for three years.
The plan was eventually amended but her mother Mary, 35, was then stunned to find it contained errors.
Mary said: “The situation as it is cannot continue or else Dakota and a huge number of other vulnerable children will ultimately lose out.
She added: “Thousands of children with specialist and complex needs, who through no fault of their own require support, are being left in limbo because of how government hands money to councils.
“From our experience and from what other families have told us, it is abundantly clear councils feel that the funding made available from central government is insufficient.”
As of January this year, figures from the Department for Education (DfE) show that there are 354,000 children and young people with EHC plans maintained by local authorities.
Education Secretary Damian Hinds. Image Credit: Parliament.
The DfE increased its funding for children and young people with the most complex SEND from £5bn in 2013 to more than £6bn this year.
Education Secretary Damian Hinds also announced an additional £350m in funding for children with the most complex special needs and at the end of last year – with £250m being allocated to local authorities.
Speaking at the time, he said: “We recognise that the high needs budget faces significant pressures and this additional investment will help local councils to manage those pressures, whilst being able to invest to provide more support.
“Every school or college should be one for a young person with special educational needs; every teacher should be equipped to teach them, and families need to feel supported.”
But campaigners, parents and teachers argue that this funding is insufficient, failing to keep pace with increase in demand.
The hearing is set to last two days and the families’ legal costs have been raised through a crowdfunding campaign.