Assembly slashes special needs education cash

First published in News

NEWPORT teenagers with special education needs will be affected by a £340,000 cut in funding announced by the Assembly.

Newport City Council is urging the Assembly to reconsider its position after it said post-16 Special School and Special Education Needs out of county funding would be cut in Newport by 31 percent.

The council’s budget for this will be reduced from £876,983 to £764,412 for the next financial year.

Newport Council said the cut will affect the funding of Maes Ebbw School in Maesglas, the purpose-built day special school for pupils aged between three and 19 with severe learning difficulties.

It will affect its 16 pupils aged over 16 and the 15 pupils on out of county placements.

Chief education officer for Newport, Dr Brett Pugh, said even though the council acknowledges the difficulties faced by the Assembly it is extremely concerned about the scale of the reduction.

He said the council had not received any prior notice about the funding reduction apart from a letter received on February 24 which was a day after the council had met to set its budget for next year.

Dr Pugh said it was therefore unable to put any contingency plans in place.

He added: “We are gravely concerned about the threat to post-16 Special School and SEN out of county provisions and the potential impact this could have on some of our most vulnerable young people.”

An Assembly spokeswoman said the amount of funding allocated to local authorities for post-16 SEN provision has more than doubled since 2003.

She said this rate of increase is not sustainable and so it is investigating alternative means of funding.

She said initial allocations were made based on estimates provided by the local authorities and on the budget for this service which was set by the Assembly last year.

Jayne Peniston, chairwoman of Gwent Autistic Society, said it was news parents do not want to hear.

She said: “When they turn 16 it’s even harder. There isn’t enough funding to go round now, I dread to think what’s going to happen.”

Newport’s cabinet member for children and young persons, councillor David Hando, called it a devastating cut which should not have happened.

He said representations have been made to the Assembly and in the mean time the council will have to look at its own resources.

Other Gwent councils cutting funding

BLAENAU GWENT Blaenau Gwent council will receive £380,904 next year which is almost £64,000 less than it was given for this year.

This is also more than £170,000 less than the council had requested from the Assembly for next year.

Pen-y-Cwm Special School in Ebbw Vale is the only fully special educational needs school in the borough.

In November last year the authority estimated there would be 21 pupils in post-16 education at the school in 2010/11 with 11 pupils in out of county placements.

The council said it is assessing what impact the reduction in funding may or many not have on its pupils.

TORFAEN Torfaen is the only Gwent council which will receive more funding next year having been awarded an extra £556,000 than this year.

But this is still almost £3,000 short of the £900,791 it asked for.

It expects to have 41 pupils aged over 16 at Crownbridge Special School in Sebastopol in September.

MONMOUTHSHIRE Monmouthshire received £521,773 this year but will receive £184,000 less than that next year.

Next year's amount is also £150,000 less than what the council requested.

The county does not have a facility for over 16s with special educational needs but has 21 pupils on out of county placements.

CAERPHILLY Caerphilly council will receive £906,290 next year which is £139,000 less than the funding it was awarded for this year.


EDITORIAL COMMENT: Cash cut concern

WE share the concern of many today over Assembly cuts to special education needs.

Newport City Council has been told it will get £340,000 less over the next year which will affect the funding of Maes Ebbw School in Maesglas, the purpose built day special school for pupils aged between three and 19 with severe learning difficulties.

Other councils in Gwent will also get reduced amounts.

We recognise the difficulties the Assembly has in making these cuts.

But those with special education needs deserve only the very best care and teaching available.

We can’t see how this can be done if we are living in an era when cuts are the norm.

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