Dingley’s Promise calls for better access to early years SEND funding
Yesterday’s release of the government’s response to the early years funding consultation was an opportunity for necessary and immediate action to be taken to improve access to early years entitlements for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. Recent research carried out by Dingley’s Promise regarding the introduction of under 2’s funding entitlements confirmed that 57% of settings believe they will not be able to take any more children with SEND when these changes come into force. This is at a time when one in five parents of children with SEND are already reporting they have been turned away from an early years setting.
Whilst we recognise the important move to increase the eligibility to access SEN Inclusion Funding (SENIF) and Disability Access Funding (DAF) to more age groups, there are ongoing concerns around the challenges of accessing this funding. Access to DAF funding is dependent on the family having successfully applied for Disability Living Allowance (DLA); something that many families in the early years are not ready or equipped to do. With 48% of local authorities saying they are underspent on their DAF budgets, Dingley’s Promise believes that the link with DLA is having a negative effect on take up, something which must be addressed to make the funding process more accessible.
Catherine McLeod MBE, Chief Executive of Dingley’s Promise reflects on the barriers:
“Currently, when settings cannot quickly access funding to support children with SEND it becomes a barrier to inclusion. We must remove all barriers to accessing the funding needed, to enable settings to be more sufficient and confident of supporting children with SEND effectively, and to reduce the numbers of children being turned away”
The Government’s response to the consultation acknowledges the current issues, stating: ‘As qualifying for DLA is contingent on a SEND diagnosis, there is a fear that many children will miss out due to the process involved in a child receiving a SEND diagnosis’. Yet despite this, the decision to proceed with the proposal to use DLA as the proxy for allocating DAF was maintained. Dingley’s Promise has raised this issue with the Department for Education, both as part of the consultation and on release of their response. We sincerely hope they will consider changing the current process to remove the barriers which prevent settings from effectively supporting our most vulnerable children in the early years.
Dingley’s Promise Manifesto for Early Years Inclusion: https://dingley.org.uk/manifesto/