An investigation by the BBC has discovered that thousands of children with special educational needs across England are being forced to wait for an education, health and care plan – despite the law stating that once requested, it should be finalised within 20 weeks.
The BBC’s investigation, which saw 65 of 152 English councils respond to Freedom of Information requests, showed that four in ten children have had to wait longer than 20 weeks for their plan, according to data staring in 2014/15.
During this time, over 26,000 applications took longer than 20 weeks to come through. Last year, a shocking 6,000 applications were not received on time. Suffolk was the worst offender in terms of longest individual waits, with one taking 1,023 days – almost three years – to come through, narrowly pipping Tower Hamlets where an application took 1,014 days to be approved.
Speaking to the BBC, Suffolk County councillor Gordon Jones blamed an increase in demand for the long wait times, as well as the transference from the old system, SEND (Statements of Special Educational Needs). He said: “Our priority is to ensure every child gets the correct help and support they need to prosper and develop.
“The increase in demand for education, health and care needs assessments for children and young people in Suffolk is a matter that I am taking very seriously.
“The development of our SEND strategy is driving improvement across SEND and all agencies involved in Suffolk.”
61 councils provided the BBC with data on how many EHC plan requests they had received, showing a 70% increase overall. Despite this, East Sussex County Council told the BBC that it was not given the proper resources to manage the massive increase.
A spokesperson said: “The national funding formula has not kept up with the increase in costs councils face as a result of more requests for EHCPs and specialist placements.”Get your copy of UNITE Magazine