Southwark Council secures £1 million in funding for families with special educational needs and disabilities

24 May 2023

Families with children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in Southwark will benefit from additional support as Southwark Council secures £1 million in funding from the Department for Education’s Short Breaks Innovation Programme.

The scheme provides disabled children a chance to develop vital skills and participate in activities while giving their families a break from their caring responsibilities. Activities will take place between 1 April 2023 and 31 March 2024.

Councillor Evelyn Akoto, Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, said: “Every child deserves the opportunity to thrive and experience the joy of childhood, regardless of their unique abilities.

“This latest funding injection supports our commitment to enriching the lives of families with children with special educational needs and, where possible, providing periodical respite to their parents and careers who fully commit themselves to their wellbeing.

“Building on our current service provision, I’m pleased to extend free play sessions for children, create safe spaces to bring families together, upskill young adults and encourage feedback on how to improve services. I’m also grateful to our local partners for collaborating with us to create an inclusive community for all.”

Working in partnership with local partners and parent groups such as Cherry Garden School, Bede House, Southwark Independent Voice and Southwark’s Children and Family Centres, the funding will be allocated to the following areas: 

1. New stay and play sessions for under 8s  

New free stay and play sessions are being rolled out for families with children with additional needs or disabilities across the borough. Children & Family Centres, in partnership with Cherry Garden School, are delivering these fun sessions to allow families to connect with others in similar circumstances and offer advice and support with things like autism, behaviour and communication challenges. The sessions will be available midweek, at weekends, and during school holidays.

2. Provision for children with higher support needs 

The council has committed to extending provisions for children and young people in need of higher levels of support with new sessions delivered during the school holiday and weekends. The number of staff available will be increased with support in place to meet additional needs related to behaviour, communication, and specific physical and health needs. The council will seek to commission providers and trial a central request system to support more fair and equitable access for eligible families.  

3. Provision for young adults (16 – 25 year olds)  

New special interest clubs will be piloted for young people aged 16-25 to build skills, develop independence and connect with peers around shared interests. The council are also working with Bede House to pilot a new awards programme with 19-25 year olds. The awards programme will offer community-based personal development activities for young people with an Education, Health & Care Plan (EHCP). 

4. Inclusive provision  

To help improve wider play and leisure services, parents and young people will be involved in reviewing existing provision, with additional support and training offered to support services to respond to feedback.

The programme will also introduce new Positive Behaviour Support workers and involve specialist child health services from Evelina London.

Further information about the activities available will be published on Southwark’s Local Offer over the coming months. The council will also capture feedback and learning throughout the year to help better understand the needs of families to help improve future services.

Page last updated: 24 May 2023