CALLS have been made for more funding for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities.

It is the second time this year Durham County Council has sent a letter to the Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson.

The authority’s cabinet member for children and young people’s services, Councillor Olwyn Gunn, wrote to the minister in March to highlight ongoing funding pressures for children and young people with SEND and support for pupils at risk of exclusion.

In the financial year 2019/20, the council spent £8.6 million more than it received from the Government in its ‘High Needs Block’ funding allocation to support SEND pupils.

Although £5.6 million of the overspend was met from general reserves, the remaining £3 million was added to the council’s HNB accumulated deficit, causing it to rise from £2.7 million to £5.7 million by the end of March.

Council bosses say the shortfall comes at a time when more youngsters in County Durham need extra support, with the number of young people with an Education, Health and Care Plan jumping from 3,000 to more than 3,600 over the last two years.

In the letter, Cllr Gunn calls for the Government to bring forward a planned national review of SEND funding and for laws to be changed to “help resolve the inadvertent pressures created by the reforms introduced in 2014.”

She also asks for “greater clarity on expectations for young people from age 16 onwards, particularly in relation to the education offer for young adults aged 19-25.”

Cllr Gunn said: “Although there’s been an increase in the funding for 2021/22 it’s simply not enough and it’s only for one year.

“I want the best for our children and young people but we won’t have sufficient funding to provide it.”

She added: “We are really keen that the needs and resource challenges for children and young people with SEND is well understood and forms a key part of the Government’s future plans.”

In a statement, the Department for Education said it was planning a review of the high needs funding formula later this year.

A spokesperson said: “Every young person deserves a world-class education. We’re committed to an education system that allows every child to fulfil their potential which is why we’re planning a review of the high needs funding formula later this year.”