Planned cuts to services for children with special needs has raised concerns, after Lewisham’s education psychologist service overspent by £200k this year – despite a budget top-up.

Education psychologists work within local authorities, in partnership with families and other professionals, to assess difficulties children may be having with their learning.

But funding their work, which also includes education health care plans, is a “budget challenge”, a council boss said.

This comes as £849k of cuts were agreed by the mayor and cabinet for all work related to individual children with complex and special educational needs, including education psychologists.

The cuts will be staggered, with £25k cut from the service this year and £824k in 2020/2021.

The 2018 overspend on education psychologists came despite a budget top-up after a 2017 overspend of £700k, mainly due to an increase in applications for education health care plans.

Cllr Alan Hall said: “We had the knife crime incidents in Bellingham and the primary schools had to use the educational psychologist service as it’s been difficult to access any extra help.”

Executive director of children and young people, Sara Williams, said the rising costs of education health care plans were a “budget challenge.”

But Cllr Jim Mallory said the council was expecting extra funding.

“As the chair of the people referral unit management committee we are finding ways within our own resources to fund extra education psychologists,” he said.

“We are anticipating getting extra money from the high-needs block in order to do that.”

The cuts still have to be agreed at full council this month.

Lewisham Council announced a £15.6m overspend on children’s services last year, with ‘improvement plans’ in place to get the budget under control.

The council announced a £16.5m overspend overall in June last year.