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Children: Disability

Question for Department for Education

UIN 166391, tabled on 10 March 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, if his Department will make an assessment of the potential merits of the Disabled Children Partnership’s recommendation in its The Longest Lockdown report that a specific catch-up plan for disabled children and their families should be implemented, covering (a) plans to scale up therapeutic interventions and (b) short breaks and transition support for disabled children and young people.

Answered on

15 March 2021

The COVID-19 outbreak has been extremely challenging for many families of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). Supporting them is a priority for this government, and their wellbeing remains central to our response to the outbreak.

We want pupils and students with SEND, including those in specialist settings, to continue to receive high-quality teaching and specialist professional support. This is because we know that these pupils and students and their families can be disproportionately impacted by being out of education.

We have put in place a range of measures to support children and young people with SEND through the outbreak. We have provided £40.8 million for the Family Fund in financial year 2020-21 to support over 80,000 families on low incomes raising children with disabilities or serious illnesses. This includes £13.5 million to specifically respond to needs arising from the outbreak, which may include, for example, assistive technology to aid remote learning. The National Tutoring Programme has increased access to high-quality tuition for disadvantaged pupils, helping to accelerate their academic progress and tackle the attainment gap between them and their peers. We have announced a major investment in education, including an additional £730 million into high needs in the 2021-22 financial year, coming on top of the additional £780 million in the 2020-21 financial year, which means high needs budgets will have grown by over £1.5 billion, nearly a quarter, in just two years. Additionally, 16-19 tuition fund providers are asked to have regard to the needs of students with SEND when prioritising students that would benefit most from small group tuition.

A priority of the education recovery work is to ensure the specific needs of children and young people with SEND are considered, so they do not fall further behind their peers. Sir Kevan Collins has been appointed as the Education Recovery Commissioner to deliver this work.

On 24 February, the government announced a new £700 million package for a range of additional measures to give early years settings, schools, providers of 16-19 education, including specialist settings, the tools they need to target support for all students. This builds on the £1 billion catch-up package announced in June 2020, and forms part of the wider response to help pupils make up their lost learning.

Specific targeted support for children and young people with SEND includes a new one-off Recovery Premium for state primary and secondary schools, building on the Pupil Premium, which will be provided to schools to use as they see best to support disadvantaged students. This funding can be used to lay on additional clubs or activities or for other evidence-based approaches for supporting the most disadvantaged pupils, including those with SEND, from September.

We continue to encourage local authorities to prioritise respite support for disabled children, and to consider flexible and pragmatic options to deliver that support including using direct payments and carrying out activities virtually. Where children and young people with an education, health and care plan are in receipt of health provision, settings should work collaboratively with their local authority, Clinical Commissioning Group and health providers to agree appropriate support in view of the latest and current local public health guidance. Therapists and other professionals may continue to visit education settings to provide therapies and support, where this is reasonably necessary.

We are committed to supporting children’s and young people’s mental health and wellbeing during this period. We have recently announced a £79 million boost to children and young people’s mental health support, including through Mental Health Support Teams.

Schools can use their additional funding from the COVID-19 “catch-up” package for pastoral support for mental wellbeing where pupils need it. We have also set up Wellbeing for Education Return, an £8 million scheme funding expert advisers and training in every local authority area, to support education staff to respond to the emotional and mental health pressures some children and young people may be feeling because of COVID-19.

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