The Emperor’s New Clothes: prevarication dressed as consultation

A new survey was published yesterday asking CYP, SEND parents, etc; in my area for their views on prioritising SEND funding and by implication funding cuts. The survey is to be followed up by three local area meetings.

At face value, this would seem to be consultation best practise in action by Achieving for Children (AFC are the NFP which runs children’s services in this and other local boroughs).

The survey sets out the predicament clearly. A local £152m budget from central government serving 27,200 school age children, 17% of which is allocated to the High Needs Block to support 4.9% of children with EHCPs at an average cost of £18,783, resulting in a current overspend of £9m which will rise to £13m by 31st March 2019.

What it doesn’t state is that there has been an internal programme at AFC, using recent government funding to assess the cultural and local implementation of the SEND reforms, running for the last 12-18 months and looking at just this problem. Lots of internal meetings and consultation with the now-defunct PCF (SEND Family Voices) and local charities.

The result was the launch (at an event for 300 professionals and interested parties) of an early intervention programme for CYP on SEN support that recognises that in some cases escalation to a full EHCP can be prevented or delayed. In effect, slowing down the growth in demand for new plans (currently +100 pa).

What they haven’t been able to solve is the issue of the overspend because demand for HNB funding is rising at a time when central funding is not. The maths simply doesn’t add up.

So AFC launches more reviews, it consults again, it uses the premise of co-production to prevaricate and put off making decisions. Possibly in the hope that all this noise about underfunding will eventually open-up central purse strings.

But what they don’t do is the hard work that will create a sustainable model of specialist local education for the majority of SEND CYP.

They did not take the time to collate the existing 1,338 EHCP plans or speak to each CYP and their families to understand what their needs and aspirations are at a micro level. AFC haven’t invested to fully understand the specific local need and therefore cannot invest to meet those needs locally and at scale. And so the overspend grows.

What the survey does offer is lots of small cuts across a lot of service areas that have the potential to cause great harm.

I am refusing to complete the survey.

Because the implications just are too serious. Because they are asking the wrong questions. Because the options lack any vision other than short-term process changes and whole-scale cuts. Because I have a job to hold down, a house to run, a child with complex needs to raise and this time I’m not going to do their job for them.

AFC meetings

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