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'Give us more cash for special needs children' Tower Hamlets mayor urges Boris Johnson

PUBLISHED: 17:00 01 August 2019

Tower Hamlets Mayor letter to Boris Johnson pleading for 'special needs' cash. Picture: Mike Brooke

Tower Hamlets Mayor letter to Boris Johnson pleading for 'special needs' cash. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

A cash crisis in special education and disability needs is facing local authorities like Tower Hamlets, which is now appealing to Downing Street.

John Biggs... John Biggs... "We face a crisis in special needs provision." Picture: Mike Brooke

Mayor John Biggs has written to prime minister Boris Johnson warning him that government financing has "failed to keep pace" with rising demand, leaving town halls to plug the gap.

His appeal is part of a campaign by local authorities, backed by the London Assembly, which has called on the Department for Education for more money.

"We face a crisis in special needs provision," the mayor writes. "The funding we get isn't keeping up with the number of children who rely on these vital services. This gap has been growing and we've now reached a tipping point."

Tower Hamlets has faced a 48per cent rise since 2016 in children needing an education health and care plan, but government cash hasn't kept pace, it points out.

The town hall received less than £50million from Whitehall in the past three years for special needs, but had to spend an extra £6m from council tax to fill the gap.

London Assembly education chair Jennette Arnold... London Assembly education chair Jennette Arnold... "Moral obligation to make sure there's a level playing field for all children." Pictures: London Assembly (inset) and Mike Brooke

The London Assembly is also calling for more special needs funding.

The Assembly's education chairwoman Jennette Arnold said: "Local authorities are buckling under the pressure of trying to pay for the rising demand.

"We can't run the risk of an educational gap. There's a moral obligation to make sure there is a level playing field for all children."

Tower Hamlets used reserves in previous years or cash from underspending on other education budgets to fill the gap, but now says this can't continue with school budgets getting tighter.

The council's cabinet member for children and schools, Danny Hassell, said: "We need an urgent cash injection to end the crisis.

Council cabinet member for children Danny Hassell... Council cabinet member for children Danny Hassell... "We need an urgent cash injection to end the crisis." Picture: Mike Brooke

"Children do well in our special needs schools which are rated Outstanding by Ofsted. But the progress we've made is at risk because of the failure to fund services properly."

The mayor's letter to 10 Downing Street urges the prime minister and the education secretary to review special needs funding to keep pace with rising demand and "bring an end to the crisis".

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