Dingley’s Promise Response to Coram’s 2024 Annual Childcare Survey

One of the most shocking statistics in Coram’s new Annual Childcare Survey is that only 6% of local authority areas believe they have enough provision in the early years for all children with SEND. This percentage has dropped sharply in the past year from 18%, which was already a major concern for us and for families of children with SEND. Sadly, at Dingley’s Promise we are not surprised at this decline, as settings and local authorities have been telling us on a regular basis that they are struggling to offer places to children with SEND as a result of the major pressures on the early years sector, despite being aware of their equality duties.


To further exacerbate the current funding, recruitment and retention issues, the new early years entitlements are also now being rolled out. Unfortunately for children with SEND, when increases have been rolled out historically, they have led to a drop in available provision for children with SEND. Changes to ratios have been introduced to take the pressure off settings struggling to recruit but in reality, the impact of this is that settings feel even less able to support children with SEND, something that was highlighted as a risk in the Government’s Equalities Impact Assessment.


Dingley’s Promise is working hard with the Department for Education to ensure children with SEND can access their early years entitlements in the same way that their peers do. We will soon release an update on our Manifesto for Early Years Inclusion that is driving forward changes that will help with the current issues. We agree with the Coram calls for an increase in early years SEND funding and simplified processes to access it. Specifically, Dingley’s Promise is calling for a delinking of Disability Access Funding from Disability Living Allowance, and ring-fencing of a percentage of the High Needs Block to fund support for children with SEND in the early years. We are also working on new early years SEND assessment guidance for the DfE. This guidance will give settings practical support and the tools to identify need and provide the information required for accessing funding. This will be designed to feed into the current two-year-old checks in a way that avoids duplication of information and effort.


The upsetting reality is that families continue to be turned away from early years settings. In our own research in November 2023, one in five families of children with SEND reported being turned away by mainstream settings. The risk is that this will continue to increase in the coming months and years, with families losing trust in the education system at the very first stage. Without trust in the system, we will never be able to build a truly inclusive and supportive education system, to the detriment of our children as well as the economy and wider society.


Given the significance of the issues around sufficiency, we are focused and committed to increasing confidence and knowledge in the existing workforce to help those working with children with SEND to work more inclusively. With this approach we can make a positive impact in settings and reduce the numbers of children with SEND being turned away. If you feel you could benefit from practical training to support your work in the early years, visit www.dingley.org.uk/training or email [email protected]

Catherine McLeod – CEO Dingley’s Promise