David Davis says lack of funding causing SEND granddaughter ‘enormous distress’ and could ‘bankrupt’ councils


As published in the Hull Daily Mail

David Davis has said his granddaughter has faced enormous distress because of a lack of resources in children’s special needs services while calling for fairer funding for councils.

Sir David said granddaughter Chloe, who has SYNGAP1 making her non-verbal and prone to seizures, missed 40 days of teaching in two years due to a lack of resources. He added resources have failed to keep up with demand, leaving East Riding Council the worst-funded authority for special education needs and disabilities (SEND) and risking bankruptcy for others.

Education Minister David Johnson said the East Riding was receiving support to fund SEND services but the Government recognised it was leaving councils facing considerable financial pressure. The Haltemprice and Howden MP’s call was welcomed by council Children’s Portfolio Holder Cllr Victoria Aitken who said it is wrestling with a huge growth in demand with limited resources.

It comes as councillors called on Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to fund local authorities better generally after the council faced a £9.4m budget gap last year which has since been plugged. Liberal Democrat Cllr Jeremy Wilcock said services were entering in a state of managed decline while Finance Portfolio Holder Cllr Nigel Wilkinson said there were no plans to cut them.

Spending on high needs including SEND services is one of the main pressures on local authority finances including the East Riding which is the lowest-funded per head nationally. Haltemprice and Howden’s MP told the House of Commons on Thursday (January 11) that £4.6bn more was needed to properly fund SEND services nationally. He added the SEND education health and care plans (EHCP) system had failed to cope with rising demand.

Sir David said his granddaughter Chloe’s experience showed the toll under-resourced services could have on children. He added the end to overriding SEND deficits for councils in 2026 threatened to bankrupt some authorities overnight, putting all services at risk.

The MP said: “My granddaughter has a genetic disease which makes her non-verbal and gives her daily fits and seizures so she has a high intensity of requirements. In the two years of the coronavirus pandemic she missed out on 40 days of teaching because of a lack of resources.

“You can see immediately how this has an effect, it causes her enormous distress. Chloe has complex needs and meeting them is a daily challenge for her parents and teachers, for her to miss so much of school is simply awful and it puts huge pressure on her and her family.

“But her case isn’t unusual, thousands upon thousands of children face the same situation. Parents and carers have provided my with examples, Jennifer said her child had been on a waiting list for a speech and language therapist for 22 months.

“Esther said her son hadn’t had his EHCP plan met in four years. High needs deficits are currently being held back by a statutory override due to expire in 2026, if and when it does many councils will be bankrupted overnight with huge implications for all services.”

Children’s Portfolio Holder Cllr Aitken said she was proud the East Riding had spearheaded calls for something to be done. Cllr Aitken said: ““There is a lot of work to be done, this is only the beginning, and it is certainly not a done deal but I’m hopeful that we can continue this battle and strive towards a better deal for our East Riding children.”

Education Minister Mr Johnson said the Government had pledged £2.6bn as part of efforts to help boost resources for SEND children. He added the Government recognised there were issues with the funding formula for councils.

The minister said: “We know the system isn’t delivering consistent support and outcomes and there is considerable financial pressure despite Government support. The Government has considerably increased higher needs budgets, including by 32 per cent in Sir David’s constituency.

“There’s two programmes supporting local authorities to pay down their high needs deficits, the East Riding is in Delivering Better Value which aims to deliver high quality outcomes at sustainable costs. The £2.6bn in capital investment will help deliver new special schools. Regional variations in funding are partly due to deprivation.”