Stevenage has 'no money left' for new special needs children, says county council

Hertfordshire Council LHNF funding letter

Sally Glossop, Hertfordshire's head of SEND, sent a letter to stakeholders saying there was "no money left" for emerging special needs (LHNF) funding. - Credit: Charles Thomson

Stevenage has run out of money to provide help to children with emerging learning difficulties.

A letter sent to schools by County Hall earlier this month said the entire Local High Needs Funding (LHNF) budget for the borough had been spent in a single meeting.

“This is a finite budget and therefore there is no money left for the rest of the financial year,” warned Sally Glossop, Hertfordshire’s lead officer for Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND).

LHNF funds classroom support for children with “emerging complex needs”, who do not yet have an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP).

Parents have raised concerns that the funding shortfall could leave children with newly discovered autism, mental health problems or learning difficulties waiting months for support.

The letter says no more applications can be processed until January, and funding may not become available until April.

Ms Glossop wrote: “At the start of the summer term and also the start of the 2021/22 financial year, [Stevenage] spent more than its entire LHNF budget for the year ahead in one meeting... We are the only area in this position and it raises concerns and questions.”

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She added that it was “unclear” how this had happened.

Hertfordshire County Council would not answer questions about whether an internal or external investigation would be launched into why Stevenage was the only area to run out of money.

A spokesperson said there was no suggestion of any wrongdoing.

“Due to the high level of demand on this new LHNF budget in the Stevenage area, the local team have already allocated all of the budget for this financial year,” they said.

“We are reviewing this situation to make sure there is appropriate support in place for children and schools for the rest of the year.”

Stevenage council leader Sharon Taylor said she had raised questions with County Hall last week.

“Something has clearly gone amiss somewhere, but it’s to do with the high level of demand,” she said.

“We are going to need some more funding urgently to make sure we don’t have to stop provision to the young people who need it. I will be pushing for that.”