Improvement plans in place for Birmingham’s children’s services despite national and financial challenges

Published: Monday, 15th April 2024

A series of reports due before the council’s Cabinet on 23 April 23 2024 sets out how the council is addressing national challenges in Children’s Services and delivering budget savings.

The reports, which include the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) sufficiency strategy 2024 –2030, the 0-25 revised Travel Assistance Policy and implementation and an Early Years Financial Incentives Pilot for review at the forthcoming cabinet meeting on Tuesday 23 April 2024. .

In a bid to boost the workforce at nurseries and childminders, ʰ̳ has secured over £1 million in Government funding for the Early Years Financial Incentives Pilot, set to launch later this month. Participation in this pilot should increase the Birmingham workforce by over 600 staff, supporting families and improving outcomes for the city’s youngest children. Under the pilot, recruits will receive the financial incentives this year. 

In support of those who require additional support, the council’s new SEND sufficiency strategy 2024 –2030 sets out the council’s plans to increase the number of school places for children and young people with SEND.  As is the case elsewhere in the country (there was a 72 per cent increase in plans issued across the country between 2019 and 2023) the number of pupils with Education, Health and Care Plans due to their SEND in Birmingham has grown in recent years and is projected to continue rising for the rest of the decade. We can see across the country, the demand and changes in our SEND system, and with Birmingham’s large and diverse population, this continues to be a growing challenging that we are continuously working on.

This growth means significantly more places are needed at schools in the city, particularly for pupils with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The council has been working with schools to increase the number of places available at existing schools. Building on this, over 500 extra places will be created at two new special free schools. Special schools and resource bases across the city will also be further expanded to ensure there are school places within the city that meet the needs of children and provides them with the best possible outcomes. 

Commenting on the Children’s services improvement journey, Dr Sue Harrison, Strategic Director Children and Families, said: 

“The council is on an improvement journey in Children and Families, and I am committed to delivering the best possible services for our children, young people and families.  

“National challenges impacting Children’s Services and the council’s financial position mean we are having to make difficult decisions in relation to some services we provide for families.  

“Our improvement work is continuing, and we are making every effort to protect services for the most vulnerable as well as making savings without impacting service delivery wherever possible.”

Work continues in the Children and Young People’s Travel Service to improve the service provided to children, young people and their families while delivering efficiencies and supporting young people’s independence where appropriate. 

This year, over £13m of efficiencies will be delivered through a re-procurement exercise and the service will be making further savings as part of the council’s agreed budget for 2024-2025.

A report on revisions to the travel assistance policy due before Cabinet proposes changes to the support offered to some groups of pupils who are not of statutory school attendance ages from September 2024. The changes, which comply with Government guidance and bring Birmingham into line with many councils across the country, will mean some families who have previously received support in the form of a minibus or taxi may now receive a personal transport budget to support their child’s travel.

Should the revised policy be approved, impacted families will be provided with information on what this will mean for them.  There is also an appeals process in place for families unhappy with the decisions made about the support provided to their children.