Agenda item

High Needs Block Update

Minutes:

Members were informed that the current state of the High Needs Block across English local authorities was gaining public recognition.  Lobbying by a number of groups including F40, the County Councils Network, the Society of County Treasurers along with others had been in the national headlines. 

 

Schools Forum had received a paper at their October meeting indicating options for the recovery of the High Needs Block overspend.  At that time the overspend was forecast to be £7.7m.  This had since risen to in the region of £8.3m.  This meant that there would be insufficient money in DSG balances to cover this overspend.  The Forum had taken the decision not to support the transfer of 0.5% from the Schools Block to the High Needs Block.  Subsequently the local authority had made representation to the Secretary of State for the switch to take place and was currently awaiting a response.

 

The DfE had confirmed that Staffordshire would receive £1.7m in 2018/19 and a further £1.7m in 2019/20 additional funding for the High Needs Block, following the announcement of the additional £250m for SEND in December 2018.  This had the effect of reducing the forecast overspend to £6.6m.  A number of the actions reported within the High Needs Block Recovery Plan had been implemented and would deliver £2.5m savings in 2019/20 and a further £1m in 2020/21.  The table below illustrates the position of the High Needs Block:

 

Forecast

including

additional DfE

funding

(£m)

Forecast

including

recovery

action

savings

(£m)

Forecast

including

recovery action

& 0.5% switch

(£2.4m)

 (£m)

Opening DSG Balances

5.05

   5.05

5.05

2018/19 Forecast overspend

-6.60

 

  -6.60

-6.60

2018/19 Closing DSG Balances

-1.55

  -1.55

-1.55

2019/20 Forecast overspend

-6.6

   -4.1

-1.7

2019/20 Closing DSG balances

-8.15

   -5.65

-3.25

 

 

It was queried whether a child who had funding via an EHCP would continue to receive this until they changed schools, it was confirmed that this would be the case as it was based on school and not key stage.  A question was raised on special schools which provide residential education, but the response was that this was not a decision to be made by Schools Forum.  Members were informed that the current financial pressures within the County Council meant that there would not be funding available from the local authority once current balances were exhausted.  Whilst understanding the financial pressures, if schools were unable to balance their budgets members expressed concern that the authority would not step in to support what were the most needy children.  The Cabinet Members outlined the elements which had significantly increased the pressure on the budget, including increased spend on children’s services, increased numbers of Looked After Children and an increase in the number of children with EHCPs.  The stark reality was that the authority could not continue to run on a deficit. 

 

A member questioned what the County Council was doing to share this problem with the Government.  The Cabinet Member for Learning and Employability responded that he had lobbied both publicly and privately, and that the issue was with the Treasury.  Members were informed that there was a parliamentary petition to increase funding for schools and that there would be a debate in parliament on 4 March.  They were urged to put pressure on their MPs. 

 

RESOLVED – That the updates to the High Needs Block, including actions taken to reduce the overspend in the years 2018/19 and 2019/20 be noted.

 

 

Supporting documents: