The government has announced increased support for children with disabilities through the introduction of a Disability Access Fund, which will provide £615 per year for every eligible child.
The funding announcement was part of the government’s response to the Early Years consultation that closed in September this year. The consultation called for views on proposals to change the way free childcare and early years education is funded and included a specific focus on making sure disabled children and those with SEN receive the financial support they need.
In addition to the Disability Access Fund the government also confirmed that every council will receive a minimum funding rate of at least £4.30 per hour to cover the cost of childcare places for 3 and 4 year olds. They will also extend additional funding for maintained nursery schools to at least the end of this Parliament (2019-20).
This means that 80% of local authorities will see increases in their hourly funding rates. Government will set a funding floor to ensure that no authority will see a reduction of more than 10% as a result of the new formula.
In their press statement Minister for Early Years, Caroline Dinenage, said:
"Education lies at the heart of this government’s ambition to make this a country that works for everyone – and today we are reaffirming our commitment by announcing this new, fairer way of funding our early years. It will ensure the dedicated individuals caring for our children have the support they need to give every child the best start, especially when looking after those who are most in need."
"We have listened to the many views shared in our consultation, and these have played a pivotal role in shaping our final proposals which aim to make our education system sustainable, transparent, and above all, fair for everyone."
Responding to the announcement Philippa Stobbs, Assistant Director of the Council for Disabled Children said:
The Council for Disabled Children welcomes the commitment the government has made to improving access to early years provision for young disabled children and young children with SEN. The funding is not substantial for each individual child, but has significant and symbolic importance in helping providers to recognise the right of young disabled children to be included.
We think the Inclusion Fund will help settings to meet the needs of a wider range of children and will help to improve progress for our youngest children. But we want to see the impact this funding evaluated fully and taken into account in Ofsted inspections. This will help us understand if the extra money is enabling early years settings to provide a suitable service for all children and families.
You can read the full response to the consultation at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/early-years-funding-changes-to-funding-for-3-and-4-year-olds