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Derbyshire council only spend £1.5m of £17.5m SEND provision

A number of local parents have come forward regarding the lack of money being used for special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) within Derbyshire County Council.

Since 2019 Derbyshire County Council has received £17.5 million to spend on expanding Special Educational Needs provision however, the conservative led council has spent just  £1.5 million. 

Toby Perkins, Labour MP for Chesterfield, spoke in Parliament claiming the authority had not spent £16 million of the £17.5 million it has received since 2019 for creating school places for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

He said: “That means £16 million, or 91% of the budget it has received, is sitting in Derbyshire County Council’s coffers, while parents of special needs children lose sleep every night at the lack of provision in our county. It is nothing short of a betrayal of those parents and their children.”

Within the High Peak, there is currently no nursery, primary school or secondary school that have enhanced SEN resources or that is fully dedicated to SEN children. 

A spokesperson for Connect, which is a SEN support group based in Glossop said: “Parents come to us distressed because their children aren’t getting the right support in mainstream schools and the only option some of these families are faced with is sending their children to schools like Alderwasley Hall in Belper which is over an hour away.” 

Parents have come forward to express their concerns over the ongoing issue, with one parent calling the situation “devastating”, she added: “To find out that there is a pot of money that could have either added extra places in mainstream schools for SEN children or even better, built somewhere suitable for SEN children, is devastating.” 

“It is so frustrating and it just isn’t good enough but we will fight for our children.” 

A parent also spoke of how this situation doesn’t just affect the children, but also the parents. She said: “ I am exhausted. For 5 years I have had to fight every single time to get him what he needs. I have been to court 3 times to attend tribunals, made no end of complaints, which are all upheld but then repeated or not rectified. 

I’m close to letting the system beat me, it’s already beaten my health. I have long term conditions that have been brought on by stress, while the LA sit in their office making decisions that ruin my son’s life.“

Another parent spoke about her personal experience, she commented: “I feel let down and misled by DCC, for years we’ve been fighting to help our son, who is autistic, access an education. He’s bright, interested and wants to learn, but like a lot of children with SEN, he struggles within a large classroom environment and needs specialist help to understand what he is being taught and to navigate through all the challenges that a day at school brings.

We’re currently battling DCC through the justice system simply to send our son to a school that specialises in teaching autistic children. The closest school within Derbyshire which could potentially meet his needs is in Chesterfield, 1hr 20 away from Glossop and he’s only 6 years old. We’re now searching in Oldham and Stockport and will likely have to move away from Glossop. Unfortunately the majority of specialist provision is located in South Derbyshire.”

However, Derbyshire County Council quote the claims are inaccurate, Councillor Alex Dale, Derbyshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Education, said: “It’s completely inaccurate to imply that we have held £17.5million of SEND capital funding since 2019. The vast majority of it (£13 million) was not announced by the Government until March 2022. “We are working very hard towards allocating this important funding, but it’s money that can only be spent once so it needs to be based on a proper, high-quality sufficiency study to ensure we provide the right sort of places in the right areas to meet the demands we are facing.

 This is not easy in a county with a geography like ours, with different needs rising in different areas and does unfortunately take time. Rushing to make ill-thought through decisions around allocations would mean we’d fail to adequately meet the needs of Derbyshire children and ultimately cost the taxpayer far more in the long term. “While the funding is focused on increasing SEND provision, it is incorrect to suggest it is just for increasing special school places. 

Our approach will include some expansion of special school places, but the money will also be spent on Alternative Provision and Enhanced Resource units to support inclusion in mainstream schools, because in many cases children with additional needs will get better outcomes in a mainstream setting with the right support. “There has been a huge amount of work taking place behind the scenes around our sufficiency to enable us to build the right type of provision in the right areas of the County. 

This includes recent consultations with schools who have been putting forward expressions of interest to be considered for an expansion of different types of places. School clusters will also be part of the decision-making around the allocation of this capital funding to ensure collective buy-in and agreement with the approach. We are due to make initial decisions with them on allocating this funding in the very near future. Finally, the money is ring fenced specifically for this work and does not directly impact on the revenue budget issues we’ve faced as a council recently – to suggest otherwise is again incorrect.”


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