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Update: BCP publishes rejected Safety Valve proposal

The first Safety Valve proposal to be published confirms fears, reveals blanket policies and risks to statutory duties

Update: BCP publishes rejected Safety Valve proposal
By: Rachel Filmer  | 

This week BCP Council published a more detailed version of its now-rejected 15-year Safety Valve proposal, following our legal letter requesting this back in March. This is the first proposal to be published nationally in this detail and, although it lacks operational and delivery information, the content underlines local and national concerns raised about the controversial Department for Education scheme.

FAQs and the proposal have been published on BCP Council’s website. Local SEND parent and campaigner Adam Sofianos has written a thread on X about the key issues in the published document.

Within the data, we see assumptions that substantial numbers of disabled children can be placed in mainstream, at a time where schools funding has been cut. One local school is already talking about cutting their school week short in response to funding shortfalls, and headteachers have already raised concerns around the challenges they are facing. Yet these plans show 100-200 more disabled children placed in mainstream per year in the early years of this plan, despite the existing pressures and lack of structural changes to support this.

We see blanket policies for ceasing plans for certain groups of young people, and not a single scenario where plans will continue past the age of 20, despite EHCPs running from 0-25.

It states that 100% of preschoolers with an EHCP would be destined for mainstream schools, despite the fact that those with plans at this age have significant needs. Several specialist schools locally have early years offerings for this reason.

Young people requiring bespoke packages - often those with the most complex requirements for a placement - will have plans ceased at 16 under these plans. It’s important to remember that the DfE rejected this plan because it wasn’t quick enough and the cuts weren’t deep enough. Negotiations continue, and there is nothing to stop the council from following this plan in terms of rationing support and suppressing access to statutory support.

From year 9 of the plan we see the number of EHCPs actually falling and remaining at a steady rate in terms of percentage, despite the fact that the number of plans has grown annually for some time.

Where BCP are currently issuing 60 EHCPs a month, this proposal sees this falling to 30 in year 1 and 16 a month by year 15. Without investment in non-statutory services, this assumption is beyond fantastical, but even this was not sufficient for the DfE.

By the end of year 15 of this plan, BCP estimate a higher needs deficit of over £356 million, before they get to the point where they have in-year surplus. This demonstrates the extent to which this crisis will worsen in coming years without the intervention and action of central government.

This proposal has BCP taking 15 years to reach an in-year balance, while some existing agreements have local authorities like Devon with huge annual overspend of £40m reaching an in-year balance within 3 years. At this point, we are not surprised that all of the Safety Valve local authorities have made such efforts to keep these plans out of the public domain.

We hope this is the start of improved communication around SEND services in BCP, and urge other local authorities to do the same. Due to the lack of consultation and transparency in Safety Valve agreements nationally, parents and carers are kept in the dark about the impact of these plans on their child’s future. We’ll continue to challenge these secretive schemes, which encourage unlawful actions in the name of cost avoidance.

We continue to call on BCP to be transparent about their current performance in SEND services, the content of their SEND improvement plan, and how they’ll ensure our most vulnerable children are not paying the price for chronic underfunding and failures in SEND services.