Number of Leicestershire young people with special educational needs at record level

Leicestershire County Council headquarters at Glenfield EMN-200130-160912001
Leicestershire County Council headquarters at Glenfield EMN-200130-160912001
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The number of Leicestershire young people requiring special educational needs and disability support (SEND) has risen to record levels.

The county council say the 50 per cent rise in youngsters with SEND education, health and care plans since 2015 to the current numnber of 4,730 is putting an intense strain on its budget.

It has contributed to an increase in the cost of providing services across the council by £24million - the biggest ever yearly rise – and by 2024, when combined with inflation, this climbs to £120million.

Councillors will consider increasing their share of Council Tax by 3.99 per cent at a meeting on Friday February 7 to reduce the impact on services by generating £12million next year to support vulnerable people.

Proposals will also be discussed to maintain the existing opening hours at recycling and household waste sites, following consideration of the public’s feedback in a consultation exercise, a £100,000 boost for SHIRE Grants and £75,000 more to help trading standards protect residents from scams.

The council’s £600million capital programme reflects priorities, including £16million to tackle climate change, creating 6,400 more school places - 5,900 in mainstream schools and 500 SEND placea – expanding adult social care accommodation and further rolling out high-speed broadband.

Byron Rhodes, deputy council leader at County Hall, said: “The rapid rise in SEND is our biggest financial risk.

“Other councils are wrestling with similar issues and new figures suggest we may have to find significantly more funding over the next four years, vastly outstripping the extra government money received.

“The government simply have to recognise this.”

The budget meeting will debate making £80million of savings over four years, half of which has been identified.

Costs of £24million will be saved by recruiting more in-house foster carers, reducing adult social care costs by simplifying processes and speeding up support, bringing together early help and prevention services, reducing disposal costs by recycling and re-using more waste plus generating more income from property investment. There are also plans to reduce SEND costs by £17million.

It is estimated the savings would lead to a reduction of around 150 full-time equivalent county council posts over four years.

Councilor Rhodes added: “Our budget foundations remain strong and we can still balance the books for now.

“But we’ve saved £210million over the last 10 years and eventually, we won’t be able to do it any more.

“We’re expecting to hear more about the government’s plans for funding reform in the spring and remain in regular contact with ministers and MPs to press for Leicestershire to get its fair share.

“We’ve listened to concerns about reducing opening hours at waste sites and are using higher than expected Council Tax income to retain the status quo. “Our Shire Grants programme and scam-busting work make such a difference to our communities and I’m pleased we can boost budgets.

“Leicestershire is growing – and having roads and schools in place to support new communities is vital.

“Our capital programme is designed to do just that and represents the biggest investment in the county’s infrastructure for a generation.

“That’s why prioritising resources and improving how we work remain essential.”

Following Friday’s meeting, the final proposals will be agreed by the full county council at a meeting on February 19.