DEVON has secured a £95million bailout to help tackle its ballooning special educational needs deficit.

The Government has accepted Devon County Council’s application to its Safety Valve scheme, which provides funding to areas where spending on special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) continually outstrips its budget.

Devon is expected to have a £163million cumulative deficit in its SEND service within the next week, and this will now be substantially reduced by the funding.

The Safety Valve will be for around nine years, with funding given in tranches.

Cllr Julian Brazil said the money is good news, but it is still not clear how the SEND service would get on top of its losses.

“We are overspending in the SEND budget by around £42million this financial year and we have got to bring that to zero, but we have been given no idea how we are going to do that,” he said.

Cllr Brazil sits on the council’s children’s scrutiny committee and said that group had not been given a comprehensive idea about how overspending will be tackled.

“We’ve been given some general points, like the fact the county intends to use more internal placements in Devon, rather than having to send children out of county, which often costs more,” he said.

“So that might save some money, but we’re talking such huge sums that I don’t feel we’ve been given any indication where other cuts or savings will come from.”

The council said the plan it had agreed with the government included improving early intervention – essentially spotting children who might need greater educational support earlier – and supporting young people from 14 to 25 to access appropriate education and training so they can transition into employment, independent living and their next steps into adult life.

The first tranche of funding is set to be paid by the end of the month and will be £38 million. The rest will be given in increments over the life of the deal.

The council made a combined £10 million in savings across all departments this financial year, a requirement as part of its application to Safety Valve.

Devon will have to hit other milestones and abide by other conditions throughout the life of the deal to ensure it gets the full funding.

It has agreed to contribute a further £5 million a year from its revenue budget and £20 million from reserves to bring the deficit back into balance by the end of the agreement.

Devon’s cabinet member for SEND, Lois Samuel, said: “This is a significant achievement and opportunity for the council.

“It not only provides the framework for service improvement but also puts the authority back onto a sustainable financial footing.

“It ensures services are delivered within the annual ring-fenced grant for high needs and reduces the cumulative SEND deficit to zero by the end of the term.”

He continued: “We now need to work increasingly closely with our partners in schools and the NHS. Working together as a team internally and with our partners is so integral to this agreement.”

Before the announcement about Devon, the government had spent almost £1 billion across 34 Safety Valve deals with councils across the country.

This included Torbay, which will receive £13 million over five years.