Fears that services for York’s most vulnerable children could be cut back have been raised – as a report says there is an expected £2m hole in the budget for special educational needs.
The Labour group says the overspend in the past financial year means City of York Council is under pressure to cut costs.
And Labour councillor Fiona Fitzpatrick said there is “real trouble down the road” if the problem is not addressed.
My concern is cutbacks to services will be made to address these overspends, but go under the radar; it’s essential that we maintain special educational needs support, for example, and find the money for children who need that support now.
There are some huge challenges for children’s services in ensuring support services are maintained, while also balancing the budget.
Cllr Fitzpatrick said plans to increase the budget for the new centre for excellence for disabled children by an extra £250,000 will add to the pressure.
Lack of funding
A council report says the number of children with special educational needs, in particular autism or mental health problems, is on the rise in York and there has also been a lack of funding to help meet the needs of these youngsters.
Cllr Ian Cuthbertson, executive member for education, said:
Our priority is to maintain crucial services to support children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities.
Unfortunately, the bottom line remains – without considerable extra investment from the Government to fill the gap in high needs block funding, our children’s services budget, like all other local authorities across the country, will remain under pressure.
The Government’s national funding formula continues to provide little funding for our schools or children’s services, particularly when compared to others areas in the UK, and I will be taking up this issue with the Government as a priority.
The council’s report says children with special educational needs achieve “significantly below national at the end of all key stages” and are more likely to not be in education, employment or training by the time they reach the age of 17.