Rotherham Council cabinet accepts £20m “safety valve” plan to address funding black hole for youngsters with SEN

Rotherham Council’s cabinet has agreed to enter into a £20m ‘safety valve’ agreement with the Department for Education (DfE), to resolve a historical deficit of the borough’s ring-fenced Dedicated Schools Grant.

Monday, 25th April 2022, 2:39 pm
Updated Monday, 25th April 2022, 5:16 pm

The council, along with many other local authorities across the UK, faces a funding deficit due to the growth in demand for special educational needs (SEND) provision exceeding the government funding provided.

The agreement will see the DfE invest £20.5m to address the deficit over the lifespan of the agreement – from 2021/22 to 2025/26.

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Rotherham’s £20m “safety valve” plan to address funding black hole for youngster...

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The agreement will see the DfE invest £20.5m to address the deficit over the lifespan of the agreement - from 2021/22 to 2025/26.

The DfE has committed to paying the council £8.53m of safety valve funding in 2021/22, followed by £3m for the next four financial years.

Councillor Chris Read, leader of the council told today’s cabinet meeting (April 25): “Rotherham, like lots of other places, the cost of providing [education for youngsters with SEND] has exceeded the amount of money that’s been available through that every year, which puts you in a strange kind of limbo position about where that money comes from.

“The particular costs come from buying in independent placements, particularly independent placements outside the borough, and transporting kids to and from those places.

“For the last three years we’ve been turning the corner – we’ve had a plan in pace, we’ve secured more places in the borough and we’ve been turning the corner on that, but we are still spending at a deficit each year.

“In order to get to a sustainable position you’ve got to have the capital, you’ve got to build the physical places within the borough in order to do it.

“We are in negotiation, the final stage of negotiation, in terms of that capital funding. ”

Councillor Victoria Cusworth added:”This was the second round of such agreements and Rotherham was well-placed to hit the ground running.

“Rotherham’s focus is to ensure more children with special educational needs can be supported to stay in mainstream education and Rotherham involvement allows appropriate SEND provision mapping in the borough to meet the council’s need.

“We have been clear in negotiations with the DofE that the long term plans are dependent of capital investment to deliver the council’s plan, and should the council not receive this investment, then we would need to evaluate our long-term strategy.

“This position has been acknowledged by the DfE in the finalised agreement.”