SEN Plans For Secondary School Children Delayed In Over 100 Councils

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The Law Of… Supporting Children With SEN

Councils fail 2,400 children with special educational needs (SEN), and new research sparks concerns about the ability of Local Authorities (LAs) to meet the 2018 deadline.



Missing The Deadline

Local Authorities across the country have failed to deliver Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) for children with special educational needs as they prepare to move into secondary school this September.

Figures obtained under Freedom of Information by specialist education lawyers Simpson Millar show how more than 100 councils failed to meet the statutory deadline of 15 February for issuing final transition EHCPs to thousands of children with SEN.

A staggering 2,405 children were left waiting for their plans, despite the fact that Local Authorities have a legal duty to deliver it by 15 February – in time for parents to help their children make the move or appeal against the contents of it to a specialist Tribunal.

Failing Thousands Of Children

Between them, Derbyshire County Council and Lancashire County Council missed the deadline for over 300 children with special educational needs.

62 councils said they had failed to issue final transition EHCPs to 10 or more children. By comparison, 47 councils were able to complete every single plan on time.

Education Law solicitor Samantha Hale from Simpson Millar explains that "Parents of children with special educational needs are understandably often anxious about school changes, and their opportunity to review and challenge the provision set out in these plans is severely hampered if they are not provided on time."

"This is a statutory deadline, put in place to ensure a sensible and managed transition for children who otherwise might find the whole process very stressful. If the plans are not issued on time, parents who wish to appeal the provision set out in it might not be able to have it heard by the Tribunal."

Of the 13,790 children whose final plans were due by 15 February, 11,657 were delivered on time, with some LAs admitting to missing the deadline for over 70% of children with SEN in their area.

Imogen Jolley, Head of Education and Community Care at Simpson Millar, adds:

"When challenged on specific delays, one council told us that they viewed 15 February as a guideline rather than a firm and legal deadline – something that shows a deep misunderstanding of the law, and one of the many reasons why the deadline has been put in place."

Samantha adds:

"These figures are hugely worrying. Clearly, some LAs are managing to complete the transition plans for all the children who need them, whereas others are failing on a large scale. These are symptomatic of poor planning and management, and a lack of resources to properly support children with SEN."

"There are valid reasons why a small number of plans might be delayed. But it cannot be a coincidence that several of the LAs that failed to meet the deadline for a significant number of children last year have failed to do so again this year."

Finding A Resolution

There are more than 260,000 children and young people registered as having special educational needs in the UK, according to Simpson Millar’s research.

These latest figures have given rise to concerns that some Local Authorities may not be able to cope with the task of transferring all Statements of SEN to Education, Health and Care Plans by 1 April 2018, as they are required to.

Samantha explains that "We are nearing the end of the transition process to a new legal framework under the Children and Families Act 2014, where all Statements of SEN must be transferred to EHCPs."

"The transfer review process can take up to 20 weeks, which means Local Authorities must begin the process very soon. For 2 years now we have seen some LAs fail to meet the deadline to deliver transfer plans to a relatively small number of children. My prediction is that we will see widespread failings come 1 April next year."

"Parents of children with SEN who should have received a final EHCP by 15 February but did not, and who are unhappy with it, should seek legal advice on pursuing the matter within the High Court."

The FOI Request

Simpson Millar submitted the following FOI request to all Local Authorities in May 2017:

  1. How many children/young people between the ages of 0 and 25 years old in your Local Authority have a Statement of Special Educational Needs or an EHCP?
  2. How many children with special educational needs in your Local Authority area required an Education, Health and Care Plan or a Statement of SEN for transitioning from primary to secondary school in September 2017?
  3. How many of these children (in Q2) received their final transition Education, Health and Care Plan or Statement by 15 February 2017?

Regions

As per 1 May 2017, how many children in your Local Authority had a Statement of Special Educational Needs?

How many children with special educational needs in your Local Authority area required an Education, Health and Care Plan or statement of SEN for transitioning from primary to secondary school in September 2017?

How many of these children received their final transition Education, Health and Care Plan or statement by the 15 February 2017 deadline?

Shortfall

%

North West

40271

2370

1870

499

21%

North East

14524

525

389

136

26%

London

42276

2476

2288

458

18%

South West

20686

1126

993

136

12%

South East

50265

2714

2454

260

10%

East of England

29493

1502

1161

341

23%

West Midlands

16067

747

672

75

10%

East Midlands

19562

1130

843

287

25%

Yorkshire

26908

1200

987

213

18%

TOTAL

260,052

13,790

11,657

2405

17%



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