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Funding for early years SEND

What funding is available to all providers offering early education to meet the needs of children with SEND

SEN support for children in early years should come from a cycle, known as the graduated approach. This means that when you identify a child as needing support to meet their special educational needs, the setting’s SENCO should carry out an assessment of their needs.

The SEND Code of Practice says you should agree in consultation with the child’s parents:

how to respond to the child’s needs by putting in place interventions and support
the expected impact on the child’s progress
a clear date for review

The four stages of the graduated approach cycle are:

  • assess
  • plan
  • do
  • review

This approach is designed to make sure that providers revisit earlier decisions and actions so that goals can be refined as you get a clearer understanding of the child’s needs.

Further information on the Graduated approach.

What funding is available in Early Years

Early years providers can get funding to provide support for children with SEN from:

  • universal funding
  • targeted funding
  • Early Years Special Educational Needs Panel funding

Universal funding

Providers get an amount per hour, per child, which early years settings get whether a child has SEND or not.

Targeted funding

Funding for three and four year olds, based on a deprivation supplement paid for each child depending on their home postcode.

Early Years Special Educational Needs Panel funding

Early Years Special Educational Needs Panel funding is for children with very complex needs.

The Disability Access Fund

The Disability Access Fund provides an additional £615 each year to help early years providers make adjustments to their settings that support disabled children. It’s available to three and four year olds who get Disability Living Allowance and go to an early years childcare provider for universal free entitlement.

The Disability Access Fund information sheet (pdf, 217KB) tells you how to claim this funding.

How we pay Early Years Special Educational Needs Panel funding to a setting

The funding we pay:

goes directly to the setting where the child is registered
transfers with the child when they move to a different setting
can be shared across each setting if the child goes to more than one place while taking up the 15 hours of funded entitlement
is extended to cover additional hours for three and four year olds if parents are eligible to claim for a further 15 hours of additional funded entitlement
is extended to cover additional hours if parents are paying for childcare

How we decide on the appropriate level of funding

We use a banding system called the Early Years Bristol Universal Descriptors to decide what level of funding is appropriate for a child, based on their individual needs.


Apply for early years funding

Apply for funding for an individual child or to implement a short term evidence based intervention for a group of children.

To find out what information you should include with your application read the guidance:

Make a first application for Early Years SEN panel funding

To make a first application to support an individual child, you must fill in a:

Early Years Special Educational Needs Panel Funding application form

You’ll need information about:

  • the child
  • what sessions the child goes to
  • details of the support you’ve given the child
  • your setting’s details

Support plan

A support plan helps us to take a multi-agency approach to support the child and their family. You should:

Early Years Individual Provision Plan

This gives a detailed summary of the provision and strategies you’ll use to support an individual child at each stage of their daily routine.

Risk Assessment

A detailed assessment of risk that relates to an individual child’s needs.

Early years Special Educational Needs Panel Funding review form

We agree Early Years SEN panel funding for a specific length of time and review it so that we can monitor the impact of the funding. Use this to complete and submit a review at the appropriate Early Years SEN panel date set for review.

When we initially agree the funding, we tell the SENCO in writing the date for review.

To review Early years special education needs panel funding, you must fill in and send us the:

Apply for funding for a group of children

To apply for funding for a group of children use:

You can use this to ask for funding to put in place a time limited, evidence based intervention for children with SEND who don’t get individual funding to meet their needs.

To return applications to us you must follow our secure email guidance.

Email completed applications to

How we assess your application

Panel meetings take place on the second Wednesday of every month from 1.30pm to 4.30pm. You need to make sure you submit your application to reach us by noon on the Wednesday one week before.

We’ll do our best to let you know the outcome in writing within one week of the panel meeting taking place.

Application queries

If you have any queries about making an application you can email or telephone: 0117 903 1296.


Inclusion contacts

Dawn Butler, Early Years Manager: Inclusion