Funding for SEN (including Personal Budgets)

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In an ideal world, parent carers should never have to concern themselves with how their child/young person’s SEN is funded. It should be that where a child is struggling, provision should be made to help them make progress, regardless of the resources needed.

Unfortunately, we are often contacted because parent carers have been told by the school that no more support can be given; support is being taken away; other children are ahead of them on the waiting list; or there are just no resources. Of course, lack of resources doesn’t always mean lack of finances (space, equipment and staff are also resources) and provision doesn’t always require additional finances. But more often than not, it does.

Other queries we receive are around EHC needs assessment requests and schools not already giving £6,000 of support (or occasionally we hear 20 hours being quoted instead). Why do the LA or school state £6,000 and what if a school say they don’t have that amount to spend – can anything be done?

So, let’s take a look!

As we’ve quoted on other pages the SEND Code of Practice says schools must:

“…use their best endeavours to make sure that a child with SEN gets the support they need – this means doing everything they can to meet children and young people’s SEN”. (6.2)

To meet this duty, schools are likely to need to use some of their budget to buy resources and make provision for children who need additional help. This provision can take many forms but could be for such things as small group work, 1:1 classroom support, a time out space, special equipment, technology or therapies.

You can find more details about where the funding comes from and how it is allocated on the West Sussex Local Offer Funding page but for a briefer summary click on the following headings below:

  • The 3 Elements of funding
  • Funding varies depending on the type of educational setting your child or young person attends, the age of the children attending and whether they offer specialist support. Some settings will receive their funding from the local authority and some direct from the Education and Skills Funding Agency. In mainstream settings, there are generally 3 elements to what and how funding is received:

  • Element 1 funding – Age Weighted Pupil Unit (AWPU).
  • Educational settings get money under this element based on the number of pupils on roll and pays for the basic costs for every child in the school regardless of any SEN (although it will pay for general SEN provision such as SENCOs and general resources used by the setting). Every October/November schools have to submit a ‘register’ and the AWPU funding will then be given for the number of children on the register at this time. Whilst this figure varies year on year, in general a primary school receive approx. £3750 per pupil and secondary schools, £5000 per pupil (based on 20/21 figures).

  • Element 2 funding – Notional SEN Budget.
  • This is money given to the school to support those children who have SEN and is worked out by a formula. This formula includes such funding as income deprivation, free school meals, looked after child funding, English as an additional language and so on. This means that schools will receive individualised amounts and you can find a list of what each school in West Sussex receives via  Annex B on the Local Offer.
    The Government have an expectation that where needed, each child with SEN can be allocated up to £6000* by the school to support their needs (in addition to the Element 1 funding). However, the school do not receive this amount for each child as it is presumed that whilst some may need that higher amount, many will need a lot less than this.

    How this element 2 funding is allocated is down to the school (the Governors are legally responsible for this) and although it is not ringfenced, you CAN ask them directly how it uses this notional budget to support your child.

    For each child in the school with an EHCP the LA takes that £6000 as a contribution towards the cost of the EHC plan. As we saw in the Code of Practice earlier, schools must make the provision set out in a child’s EHCP, and therefore if a school has a lot of children with EHC plans, it is likely that they will have fewer resources to support other children in need of SEN Support. In such circumstances, West Sussex may allocate additional SEN Support Funding to help schools meet their statutory duties.

  • Element 3 funding – High Needs Block or Top Up Funding (ALSO known as IAR).
  • Where a child or young persons requires special educational provision above the Element 1& 2 funding (£6,000), the local authority can top up the funding required for that individual child. In West Sussex a child will generally need to have an EHC plan for this funding to be given. Depending on the school and the child’s individual needs this could be a few hundred pounds or several thousand depending on the provision required (including the type of placement).

    A summary Matrix of High Needs Funding in West Sussex for 2020/21. sets out the funding arrangements for pupils and students with high needs in each type of setting in West Sussex.
    The Government have produced a High Needs Operational Guide which provides even more detail about how this element should work.

  • Special schools and SSCs
  • Funding to Special Schools and Special Support Centres works slightly differently to mainstream school funding in that they receive Base Funding (Element 1&2) based on the number of places rather than a formula. This is a set amount of £10,000 but they may (and often do) receive high needs top up funding for those children needing more support.

  • Why is it £6,000 and why do some schools say they can’t give that?
  • As we saw in Element 2, where a child needs additional support, schools are expected to provide up to £6,000 from their own budget before asking the LA to provide the top up element (which is allocated in West Sussex by having an EHC plan).

    This figure comes from the DfE generally because of the difference in element 1 funding (the base amount of money that schools get for allocating a child a place). In mainstream schools it is funded at around £4000 per child (slightly less in primary) but for a special school placement it is funded at £10000. The different is therefore £6000. The suggestion is that if a mainstream school needs to provide more than £6000 of additional support to a child then they are receiving a special school level of education. The support for the vast majority of children is thought to cost less than £6000.

    As we mentioned in Element 2, for a school that is very pro-SEN and therefore have a high proportion of children in their care with complex needs, it could be very easy to overspend on this funding. For those that are not so inclusion focussed then it may be easier for these funds to be used elsewhere. It is therefore important to ask the school to show you how they have used their Notional SEN Budget (Element 2) as well as how much is being spent on your own child.

    The £6000 figure can sometimes be used to dissuade parents from requesting an EHC needs assessment to try and secure an EHC Plan for their child. We often hear parents being told that there is ‘no point’ having an EHC plan because it won’t allocate any further funding beyond the £6000 which is being given already. This should not be true. The funding for SEN Support and an EHC plan must start with the needs of the child, not a funding formula and therefore, where a child’s needs determine that more provision is required over and above the £6,000 then this simply must be given.

  • Personal Budgets
  • A personal budget is an amount of money identified by the local authority to deliver provision set out in an EHC plan where the parent or young person is involved in securing that provision (CoP 9.95) and can be requested when the local authority has completed an EHC needs assessment and confirmed that it will prepare an EHC plan (and during a statutory review on an existing EHC plan).

    In the majority of cases, the SEN Funding is sufficient to deliver the educational provision detailed in Part F of the EHC plan. As the education setting directly receives a large amount of special educational needs funding to make the special educational provision, personal budgets for educational purposes are less common than those given by health and social Care. Generally an education personal budget would only be considered from within the Element 3 – High Needs / Top Up Funding if the education setting could not make the provision required and needed to be sourced from elsewhere.

    Further information about the different types of personal budgets can be found via the Local Offer


    School funding is a tricky area that can change year on year and it isn’t always straight forward as to who receives what. However, we have to remember the duty on schools as quoted in the SEND Code of Practice 2015 – that they must “use their best endeavours to make sure that a child with SEN gets the support they need – this means doing everything they can to meet children and young people’s SEN”. Early and continued recording of interventions and strategies, collecting of evidence and complete, comprehensive reviews are especially important should the need for more funding be required as it is highly unlikely that any more funding will be released without this evidence.

    If school tell you that despite your child needing more support, they do not have the financial resources to provide this, ask them to evidence this and the steps they are taking to remedy the situation for your child.
    And remember, just because a school is not using the full £6,000 in supporting your child or young person, it doesn’t automatically mean your child or young person doesn’t need more. Check with the school as to whether it is a case of not needing it (with evidence to show this) or not being able to fund it, as it could be the latter.

    And finally, where a child has an EHC plan, it is essential that the provision in section F clearly states the specific provision that is required. Without this, correct funding may not necessarily be given and therefore support may fall short of what is needed.

    Please feel free to download our SEN Funding Factsheet:

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