Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Funding

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:30 pm on 12th February 2019.

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Photo of Vincent Cable Vincent Cable Leader of the Liberal Democrats 2:30 pm, 12th February 2019

Indeed. My hon. Friend graphically highlights the dilemma that I am describing: people acting with very good intentions are now being forced into conflict, in a very damaging way.

That point brings me to the crux of the problem: the Government’s role via the high needs budget. I acknowledge that the Government have taken some action—I do not want to be completely grudging. There was an increase of £250 million in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 budgets, part of the special provision announced last year, and that is welcome. However, the LGA has run its ruler over that and has computed that it accounts for about a quarter of the deficit. It is a small step forward. A much bigger step is required.

The second thing the Government can do within existing budget constraints was raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston and Surbiton. Some money should be diverted to special needs school provision from within the large increase in cash that is being made available to the health service.

We cannot avoid the conclusion that, in the spending review ahead, the Government are simply going to have to review the weight they give to special needs provision as opposed to the normal school funding block, and to be substantially more generous in respect of special needs provision. They have announced that we have come to the end of austerity. Some of us are a bit sceptical, but this is one area where they can prove it.