Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Funding

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:20 pm on 12th February 2019.

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Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Labour/Co-operative, Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport 3:20 pm, 12th February 2019

I thank Sir Vince Cable, but I take issue with him on one point: there is something Brexit-related about the debate, because Brexit is masking a crisis in special educational needs. If it were not for the focus of the media and politics on Brexit, issues such as the crisis in special educational needs and disability would be to the fore. More people would be talking about it, and there would be more pressure in Parliament—particularly on the Treasury—to give the Department for Education and the Department of Health and Social Care the funding they need to make things work.

Frankly, kids are being failed by a system that does not have enough money in it, that is too complex for people to navigate, and that is taking too long to get the support kids need. Councils and child and adolescent mental health services need more money, and I support the call for an increase in the high needs block funding. We need to make that case in the comprehensive spending review, as well as to the Minister here, and to make sure that the fantastic staff in mainstream and specialist schools get the support they need.

We should also support parents. In a debate on children’s social care, my hon. Friend Laura Smith told most powerfully a story about one of her constituents, who said:

“I am a warrior, but I just want to be a mum.”—[Official Report, 17 January 2019;
Vol. 652, c. 1416.]

Parents are fighting every day to get their kids with SEND the support they need. They are struggling with it, and that is why so many kids are now home-schooled. The support is not there in mainstream education—not because teachers do not work hard enough to deliver it, but because there is not enough funding. That is why we need it.

Constituents come to my surgery nearly every week to talk about the difficulties. I imagine that the story in Plymouth is no different from the story across the country. There is a crisis in SEND support, and we need to restore the safety net that these kids deserve. If we do not invest in them now, not only will they cost us more in the short term as taxpayers, but we will lose the potential of these young people to deliver benefits in the future; we risk paying more for them throughout their lives. That is why it makes good economic sense to invest in these children and their families now and to make sure they get the wraparound support they need and deserve. We must restore the safety net, and that means funding services properly.