Hundreds of parents, pupils and school staff came together to march to 10 Downing Street to deliver a letter with a £12m invoice to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, urging him to support children in Tower Hamlets with Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND).
Campaigners marched from Parliament Square to Downing Street last Friday to hand in the letter after the Government’s funding for SEND services failed to keep pace with the increasing demand and costs.
Last year, Tower Hamlets received SEND funds of £49.7m, but it spent more than £56m on services. The overspend is projected to reach £12m by 2022, and the Local Government Association estimates that by 2021, councils in England will face a SEND funding gap of £1.6 billion.
Over 8,000 children and young people in Tower Hamlets between the ages of two and 25 who have special education needs and disabilities are affected by the lack of funding. In London, over 200,000 children and young people have some level of special education need or disability, and the number of children with high-level needs has increased by 20 per cent in the past 10 years.
In his letter, Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs said: “Between 2016/17 to 2018/19 there was a 43% increase in demand for SEND yet the funding we received from central government only increased by 5.2% in this period.
“This has left us with a large shortfall and it’s a picture reflected across the country. Whilst some short term funding has been provided this year, it is no replacement for a fair and sustainable system of funding for services going forward.”
Councillor Danny Hassell, Cabinet Member for Children, Schools and Young People, said: “Our SEND services support some of the most vulnerable children and young people in our society and ensure that they are given the best start in life. All of this is at risk though because of the SEND funding crisis. I hope delivering this invoice straight to Downing Street will send a clear message about how important it is that the SEND crisis is met head on.”
In a press release, Biggs said: “Tower Hamlets is right on the frontline of the national high needs funding crisis, where growing demand means that we face a £12m gap in funding for our services. We believe that every child should be given the best start in life and I’m calling on the Government to use its upcoming Budget to inject extra money and ensure that SEND services are properly funded.”