To consider a report on Early Years funding for 2019/20.
Lynne Samuel stated that it was proposed that 5% was retained centrally, equating to £506k for 2019/20. This reflected an increase of 1% on that retained for the current financial year, ensuring 95% was still available to fund Early Years’ providers, in line with DfE guidance.
Lynne Samuel stated that the proposed increase in centrally retained funding did not represent an increase in central costs within the Council, but a change to Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) block allocation for SEN Early Years Inclusion. The cost of this provision was approximately £160k and was previously funded from the HNB. Retaining 5% for 2019/20 allowed £100k of these costs to be more appropriately funded from the Early Years Block rather than the HNB.
Coral Miller, Interim Senior Finance Specialist Schools stated that from the census and budget information available, early indications were that this approach would allow for an increase in the hourly rate of 7p for 3 and 4 year olds, with 2 year old funding being held at the current hourly rate. However work on the January census remained ongoing. The hourly rate for providers could not be confirmed until all information was received and verified (around June time). As providers needed an estimate budget in February, this would be provided based on the January census numbers.
During the discussion of the item the following comments were made;
· Ian Morgan was concerned that the numbers were dropping yearly, however, the centrally retained rate was increasing;
· In response to a question, Emma Slaughter, Early Years Consultant stated that previously the Early Years SEN was funded from the HNB, Early Years had effectively been receiving the service free of charge;
· Lynne Samuel confirmed that there was no change to the services provided, the only change was that the service was no longer to be funded by the HNB;
· Ian Morgan stated that the cost to Early Years had increased;
· Emma Slaughter stated that the actual cost of the service was more than 5%;
· Carol Simpson asked if there was a similar service (and potential cost) to schools. Coral Miller stated that schools were funded by the general fund which funded Educational Psychologist Service ;
· Elaine Stewart stated that schools had been advised to expect to have to pay for Educational Psychology Services in the future;
· Paul Doherty confirmed that the Council’s Educational Psychology Service operated as a traded service to all schools, including academies. This service would undergo an internal review to ascertain its suitability. He also stated that there was no definitive view about the future arrangements for this service at the moment;
· In response to a question Paul Doherty stated that the Educational Psychology Service was composed of a small team which was under pressure due to the amount of work;
· Ian Morgan was concerned that the Early Years Block was funding a statutory function of the Council;
· Kerry Clifford pointed out that if the £100k was not funding the Early Years’ SEN, it would not be passed on to providers anyway.
The Early Years representatives were concerned over the estimated numbers. It was suggested to make the Budget proposal conditional on the predicted numbers materialising.
Carol Cammiss stated that the Local Authority was funding over and above what was required, she was confident that this was the best estimate and affirmed that if the numbers were ‘wildly’ wrong, the Local Authority would come back to consult Schools Forum.
Ian Morgan stated that he understood the pressures in the HNB. He asked that information on how the SEN allocation for Early Years was spent be presented to Schools Forum, Emma Slaughter agreed to share this information based upon the last year.
Upon being put to the vote the Early Years representatives agreed to the 2019/20 Early Years Budget, including the revised centrally retained figure.
1) The 2019/20 Early Years including centrally retained Budget be approved for submission; and
2) Schools Forum would receive a report containing a breakdown of Early Years SEN allocation.