THIS week I had very useful discussions with some of our county councillors in Central Devon to discuss the Devon County Council budget, which is due to be finalised later this month, writes MP Mel Stride.

In particular, I caught up with Lois Samuel, County Councillor for Okehampton Rural, and Cabinet Member for Children’s Improvement Services, about the provision within the budget for Special Educational Needs, or SEND services.

We have seen a 9per cent increase in pupils with Special Educational Needs since 2017 in Devon, and I know the demand for care and support services for vulnerable children and adults is increasing here in Central Devon.

Across many different measures, Devon has a higher proportion of pupils with SEND needs compared to the rest of England.

Pupils with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Speech Language and Communication Needs (SLCN) in Devon are also more likely to require extra support with their education, health and care needs compared to other children across England.

The secondary school Speech Language and Communication Needs (SLCN) rate is also approximately twice the national average.

This means there is work to do to ensure SEND services meet the needs of our local communities. 

I was reassured that Devon County Council has robust plans in place to deliver a financially sustainable ‘Dedicated Schools Grant’ budget and improved support for children and young people with SEND. 

The council is also applying for Safety Valve Funding from the Government, which is there to help Councils improve the delivery of SEND services for children and young people whilst the Local Authority works towards financial sustainability.

The Department for Education has recently confirmed it is satisfied that Devon County Council’s plans are deliverable and will achieve objectives that will benefit young people and their families in Central Devon and across the county.

We hope to see a prompt final determination of the bid so the County Council can press ahead with its plans and ensure that from this summer we will begin to see better outcomes for SEND services in Devon.

Towards the end of last year, our Improvement Plan set out reforms to make sure every child and young person gets consistently high-quality support, no matter where in the country they live.

These reforms included a commitment to create thousands of new places at specialist schools and staff training, as well as an extra 2,000 training places for early years special educational needs co-ordinators.

As part of the plan we will also have three new specialist schools here in Devon.

I will continue to work with Devon County Council to make sure we meet the demand for SEND services here in Central Devon, so that vulnerable children and young people get the support they need.