William Eichler 06 August 2018

Court rules £5m of special needs cuts ‘illegal’

Bristol City Council has said it is ‘disappointed’ by a court ruling that found the authority had acted illegally by cutting £5m from the budget for children with special needs.

Parents from the southwestern city took the council to court last month over the cuts to services for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

The judge concluded: ‘I am not satisfied that had the [council] acted lawfully there would necessarily have been any reduction at all.’

Responding to the ruling, Cllr Craig Cheney, deputy mayor with responsibility for finance, said: ‘We are disappointed by the court’s decision and will carefully consider the detail of the judgement and what implications it has before making a decision about what to do next.

‘We truly appreciate how sensitive this issue is, and know it is difficult to contemplate changing budgets without causing concern.’

‘The large pressure on our SEND budget is due to increasing demand and complexity of children and young people’s needs, but mostly because we do not get enough money from Government in this area,’ he continued.

‘It is clear to all sides that funding needs to be sustainable and along with many other authorities we have written to the Government to highlight its lack of appropriate funding.’

Last June, 39 local authorities wrote to the Government to warn they do not have enough funding to meet their statutory obligations for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).

The letter to the education secretary said it was ‘unacceptable’ that more than 2,000 SEND children are left with no education provision at all due to inadequate funding.

Commenting on the ruling, a spokesperson for the Local Government Association (LGA) said: ‘While we await to see the implications this ruling could have for councils, the LGA has been clear all along that the Government needs to provide significant, ongoing and sustainable funding to help councils manage the rising demand in support from pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

‘We have previously warned that unless councils are given the funding to meet this need, they may not be able to meet their statutory duties and children with high needs or disabilities could miss out on a mainstream education.

‘This is why we are calling for an urgent review of funding to meet the unprecedented rise in demand that councils are experiencing.’

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