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Pupils with SEN and Disabilities

Volume 742: debated on Monday 11 December 2023

9. What steps she is taking to reduce waiting times for children with special educational needs and disabilities to receive support. (900562)

In our improvement plan, we set out plans to deliver consistent early support through our new national standards, backed by a 60% increase in high-needs funding and in programmes such as our £13 million investment in the Partnerships for Inclusion of Neurodiversity in Schools programme, which supports the needs of neurodiverse children.

More than half of children with an education, health and care plan are now experiencing a delay, and even after receiving an EHCP, my constituent’s child was held back a year and had to wait another year before finding a space in a special school. Over 1.5 million children in the UK have special educational needs, so can the Minister tell me what he is doing to ensure that parents and children such as my constituents get the support they need quickly?

We are investing £2.6 billion to transform the special educational needs and alternative provision system. That has included a 36% increase in funding to Birmingham, where the timeliness of EHCPs has been getting better each year between 2020 and 2022.[Official Report, 18 December 2023, Vol. 742, c. 8MC.]

Beyond the traditional methods of support for SEND, the Minister will know that councils give specialist provisions, and we have heard a lot today about some of those longer-term provisions, for children in particular, and the time involved. What assessment does the Department make when looking at the distance that some of these children need to travel to get this specialist support, particularly when it is out of county—for example, Shropshire into Staffordshire? It may not seem a long distance, but on some of those meandering, serpentine roads it can take a very long time to travel 20 miles.

My right hon. Friend makes an important point. Out of county placements are not ideal for the child and their family or for the cost to the local authority, which is why we have 78 new special schools in fruition. We are also committed to seeing the children whose needs can be met in a mainstream school being supported at an early enough stage with their special educational needs.

Thank you, Sir. It is good to see you back safe and well in the Chair. As this is the nearest I am ever going to get to it—No. 10, please! [Laughter.]