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Southwark Council is right to safeguard special needs services, but kids need long-term security

Southwark Council has promised this week that it will not cut vital support services for young people, despite substantial savings needing to be made.

New sources of funding have to be found for these services, which the council is in negotiations over. It is vital that the council provides these services to vulnerable young people and their families as it is well documented that taking action early to help children with conditions like autism and other special educational needs is important in helping them develop and reach their full potential as adults.

But although Southwark has promised this week that there will be no cuts to services, which would affect hundreds of local children and their families, it seems worrying that the council is having to scramble to fund them on an apparently ad-hoc basis.

‘No cuts to autism services’ despite need for new funding sources, Southwark Council vows

Southwark has a budget gap of £1.6m, which it has closed from £6m in December 2020. Savings like taking away funding for the young people’s services help close the gap.

There are about 1,100 children with autism “known to local services in Southwark”, and presumably many more with other special educational needs.

But it’s likely that demand for these services will only increase in future. A report by Southwark Council and the NHS on the borough’s strategy for people with autism between 2016 and 2021 said that “we are aware that the demand for specialist provision is only likely to increase due to the predicted rise in population and rate of diagnosis of autism.”

It’s positive that the council has committed to protecting these services in this budget. But we need settled funding for the services in Southwark, to give children who need extra help and their families some peace of mind and assurance that they are not being forgotten.

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