To ask the Secretary of State for Education, with reference to the forecast on 13 July 2022 by Devon County Council of a Dedicated Schools Grant overspend of £32.1 million, what assessment he has made of the impact this will have on that council's ability to improve (a) provision and (b) outcomes for pupils with SEND.
Local authorities are statutorily responsible for meeting the special educational needs of the children and young people in their area. In doing so, they must take responsibility for the effective and sustainable management of their high needs systems and associated spending. Overspends on local authorities’ high needs blocks are for local authorities to manage, and they do not affect an authority’s duty to carry out its statutory responsibilities.
In 2021, Devon was invited to participate in the Safety Valve intervention programme for local authorities with the very highest dedicated schools grant (DSG) deficits. The Safety Valve programme is not a cost cutting exercise, it is focused on improving performance of local high needs systems and ensuring this is achieved in a sustainable way. The programme requires the local authorities involved to develop substantial plans for reform to their high needs systems to rapidly place them on a sustainable footing. If the local authorities produce DSG management plans that create lasting sustainability and are effective for children and young people, the department will provide financial support to the authority, to assist in the elimination of its DSG deficit, so long as the authority delivers on its plans.
Devon took part in the programme in 2021, and negotiations are not yet concluded. The local authority is developing plans to improve both the high needs system and its financial management. Their focus on improving outcomes for children and young people should be supported by plans to reach a more sustainable position and reduce its overspend.