02 October 2017
On Tuesday 3 October 2017, the Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language, Alun Davies AM, will look to move a motion to agree the financial resolution for the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal Bill. This is the second time that the financial resolution has been on the agenda for Plenary, as it was first scheduled for debate on 6 June 2017.
Following changes in the projected savings associated with the Bill and a subsequent request from the Finance Committee (PDF, 250KB), the Minister decided not to move the motion in the Senedd on 6 June (PDF, 238KB).
This article covers the financial aspects of the Bill and recent scrutiny by the Assembly’s Finance Committee. For details of what the Bill actually does and background information on Additional Learning Needs (ALN) more generally, see our Bill Summary and previous blog on 9 August.
In a letter on 25 May 2017 (PDF, 241KB) to the Chair of the Children, Young People and Education Committee and the Chair of Finance Committee, the Minister outlined changes to the Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) that he described as “substantial”. At this point in time the Minister advised that, rather than result in an overall saving of £4.8 million (as outlined in the original RIA), the Bill was anticipated to result in a cost of £8.3 million over the four-year implementation period.
This figure has since been revised (PDF, 279KB) following a Welsh Government quality assurance process over the summer and now stands at a net cost of £7.9 million over the implementation period. However, the Welsh Government projects that in the long-term the Bill will result in a less expensive system for providing for ALN and will generate savings.
The revised Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) (PDF, 1.55MB) therefore represents a net increase in costs from the original RIA of £12.7 million.
The overall costs of the Bill are made up of two elements, the ongoing costs/savings of the new system and the implementation costs required to move to the new ways of working, these costs are estimated over four-years. The changes in the revised RIA represent a reduction in the ongoing savings, rather than an increase in implementation costs. The estimated transition costs of the Bill have actually reduced between the original and revised RIAs, from £12 million to £11.5 million. However, the net ongoing savings have decreased from £14.2 million to £3.7 million.
The change in the overall costs of the Bill relate to a number of elements in the RIA, some of which the Minister outlined to the Finance Committee (PDF, 2MB) prior to its scrutiny of the financial implications of the Bill on 8 February 2017. The most significant changes are associated with costs and savings in the “Disagreements and Appeals” section of the RIA, which were published (PDF, 241KB) after the Stage 1 reporting deadline.
Evidence provided by SNAP Cymru (dispute resolution service provider) during Stage 1 scrutiny, led the Welsh Government to make changes to the number of cases and average cost of a case used in the Disagreements and Appeals section of the RIA. The changes to the two figures are:
- Number of cases: reduced from 1,533 to 758
- Average cost of a case: reduced from £2,000 to £875.
The RIA also now outlines that £500 of the £875 average cost of a case, is a cost to local authorities, with the remaining £375 a subsidy from dispute resolution providers (made up of fund raising, charity reserves and volunteer hours). The number of cases and average cost of a case are used in a number of calculations throughout this section of the RIA.
Following the postponement of the financial resolution in June, the Finance Committee has undertaken two sessions to understand and scrutinise the implications of the changes. The Committee met with SNAP Cymru and then the Minister at its meeting of 21 September 2017, and has subsequently published a report on these matters on 29 September 2017 (PDF, 316KB). In its evidence to the Finance Committee SNAP Cymru suggested that the Welsh Government had misinterpreted information it had provided as part of the RIA preparation process, but since raising the issue there had been productive discussions with the Welsh Government.
Whilst not containing any recommendations, the report notes the Committee’s disappointment at the need to make the level of changes that have been made, but also welcomes the Minister’s decision to produce a revised RIA. The Committee also note that SNAP Cymru are content that there is now a shared understanding of the revised figures and narrative.
The motion to agree the financial resolution for the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal Bill is due to be moved in Plenary on 3 October 2017.
Article by Owen Holzinger, National Assembly for Wales Research Service