Senior Hackney councillor demands government increases SEND funding

Hackney campaigners and councillors campaign in solidarity with Tower Hamlets, L-R Amanda Elliot, George Binette, Cllr Caroline Woodley, Deputy Mayor Anntoinette Bramble, Frieda Schicker and Amanda Bentham

A senior Hackney councillor has spoken out about a £1.6bn funding shortfall over the past two years for special educational needs in the London borough, calling on the Government to increase its funding. 

Caroline Woodley, Cabinet member for families, early years and play told Eastlondonlines: “It is absolutely vital that a long-term funding solution is found, and we’d like to see this happen in close consultation with local authorities.” 

Woodley blamed the Children and Families Act of 2014. for the crisis. Councils are now required to provide support from 0-25 year olds instead of the standard school age through the Educational, Health and Care Plans (EHCP).

She said: “We absolutely welcome this, but we need the funding to match. “Within Hackney there are an estimated 1,900 children and young people who have an EHCP. We’ve been forced to seek out one-off grants, make savings elsewhere and dip into our reserves and clearly we can’t keep doing that.” 

“It is important to flag that this set against a backdrop of huge cuts to the council’s core funding – we have had to cope with half of our Government grant being cut over the last decade.”

Hackney is fighting for these funds to be increased. “If the Government wants people to believe that austerity is over, it needs to begin to properly fund our most important services, like SEND” she said. 

According to campaigners in both Hackney and Tower Hamlets what they call the SEND crisis means children are losing out on a proper education and the support.

They warn that over 8,500 children with special needs in the UK still “do not have access to an appropriate place in school and over one million children with special needs do not have adequate funding to help with their education”.  

The two East London boroughs joined together with families, educators and unions and marched to Downing Street to call for a reform of funding for young people with special educational needs last week.

The Government recently pledged an extra £700 million in funding for SEND, however, schools and local authorities are still facing a £1.0 billion loss in funding, according to the National Education Union.  

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