Issue - meetings

Meeting: 13/12/2023 - Cabinet (Item 441)

441 DfE Safety Valve Negotiations and Progress pdf icon PDF 99 KB

Joint Report of the Director of Children and Young People’s Futures / Chief Executive and Director of Finance and Public Value updating on the progress of discussions with the DfE regarding the Safety Valve. This Report will follow.

Additional documents:


RESOLVED that the Report, as an update on progress in reaching a Safety Valve agreement with the Department for Education, be noted.


(Councillors Biederman and Brazil attended in accordance with Standing Order 25(2) and spoke to this item).


The Cabinet considered the Joint Report of the Director of Finance & Public Value and Director of Children Futures and received a presentation at the meeting, appended to these minutes.


The Report outlined how School Funding was received through the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG), and how it was then split into four blocks (Schools Block, High Needs Block, Early Years Block and Central Schools Services Block).


Many Local Authorities (LAs) had faced financial challenges in meeting the demand for Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND) within the High Needs Block of the DSG.  In response, Government had introduced a statutory override in 2020 which separated local authorities’ DSG deficits from their wider financial position. The current arrangement ended in March 2026 and meant the future of the override was uncertain.


In parallel, the Department for Education (DfE) launched the Safety Valve Intervention programme in 2021, which targeted support to the LAs with the highest DSG deficits and required them to develop plans to reform their high needs systems and place them on a sustainable footing.


The table in the Report highlighted the SEND funding available each year, the in-year pressures and the growth in accumulated deficit, showing a forecast accumulated deficit of £162m in 2023/2024.


The Council was, in May 2023, invited to re-join the Safety Valve programme. 


A fundamental part of the work had been detailed demographic analysis of SEND up to 2029-30 which reflected both the changing population but also Devon’s SEND system. Project Management resources had also been brought in to help build the Safety Valve work strands, which formed part of the local area’s SEND Transformation Programme.  The intended impact of the work strands can be summarised as;


·       an annual slowing down and flattening of the net increase in EHCPS, to bring the Council in line with statistical neighbours and England averages;

·       a sustained reduction in the use of costly independent specialist provision, with a total reduction in the number of learners accessing this provision of 30% from 2024 to 2030, some 361 places; and

·       a proportional year on year increase in the number of learners accessing their education in mainstream schools/resource base provision.


The impact of doing nothing would be a worsening financial position with significant financial sustainability challenges for the Council.


The key to achieving a positive outcome from the negotiations with the DfE and vital to the financial sustainability of the authority was developing a plan that resulted in services being delivered within the funding available and deliverable in a reasonable timeframe. If the DfE were assured the plans were deliverable within the timescales proposed and would achieve the intended outcomes, then financial support towards the accumulated deficit was expected. Each agreement reached between a Local Authority and the DfE had different dynamics and resulted in varying levels of support being made available, although any agreement reached would require a local contribution from the Authority to fund  ...  view the full minutes text for item 441