We are all dedicated practitioners and managers striving to provide the best for all children within our diverse settings, yet we are experiencing insurmountable difficulties in meeting the needs of very young, vulnerable children who have special needs.
We are not ‘allowed’ to claim 1:1 funding for these children, as we are told [this] is not necessary. We would like to invite those who believe this to be the case to come into our settings and show us how we can safeguard, let alone teach, children who have no speech, no understanding of danger or risk and an active curiosity to explore, climb, throw, hit and taste, within usual ratios.
Children aged two, who are not entitled to government funding, are not entitled to any support at all. Yet, as inclusive settings, we are legally bound to accept these children. Once the children are three, and are entitled to 15 hours of funded childcare, we can then apply for financial support. To even apply for funding, we must have two terms of evidence to support our claim, which means settings are already struggling before the insufficient funding is allocated.
The most a setting can be allocated works out to approximately £4.50 per hour. The living wage is £7.83 per hour. We would like to know where the additional £3.33 is supposed to come from. Please bear in mind that this is the highest rate of funding; other cases have been allocated far less.
These children may have a diagnosis when they start at the setting, if their need is extremely severe. However, it is usually the role of the setting to raise any concerns, collaborate with outside support agencies, make referrals, and support parents through this complex and emotional process. All of this is to be done with no extra funding, for at least two terms. The burden of paperwork to refer a child for extra support has increased beyond measure in recent years.
This is in a climate where the additional funded 30 hours is preventing many settings from having the flexibility to charge higher fees to make up for any shortfalls. The living wage is increasing, pension contributions are increasing. Our hands are tied: the Government sets our income and our expenditure; the two are incompatible. This means there are no excess funds which settings can use flexibly to meet the needs of children with SEND who are underfunded. It is all very well for the DfE to expect settings to work at ratio, demonstrating on paper that funding levels are sufficient. However, in reality, working to ratio does not add up, because it takes no account of general admin, safeguarding responsibilities, first-aid or changing children – or, most relevantly, children with SEND, including all the extra admin and meetings involved in meeting their complex needs.
This lack of funding is placing us in an unacceptable position, which will have one of three outcomes: 1. We are unable to safeguard children; 2. We are forced to exclude young children with SEND; 3. We fund support ourselves, which will ultimately result in the closure of settings as this is simply financially unsustainable. We therefore request that the funding of SEND in early years settings is investigated and reviewed as a matter of urgency.
Hersden Under 5s Project, New House Nursery, Barham Pre-school, Oaks Nursery, Lilliput Pre-school, Firs Nursery, Canterbury Day Nursery, Sturry Pre-school, See-Saw Pre-school, Choo Choo’s Day Nursery
This letter has also been sent to the Government and Kent County Council.