Martin Ford 26 November 2019

Bristol accused of 'abject failure' over SEND care plans

An overhaul of services for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) is under way at Bristol City Council, after it failed to meet deadlines for families applying for support.

The council did not complete any Education, Help and Care Plans (EHCPs) within the 20 weeks permitted during the last three months, and managed to complete just 2% in the previous quarter.

Bristol has set a target of 61.3% of plans meeting the deadline in 2019/20, having completed 7% last year, according to a report to go before councillors later this week.

An open letter published last month by the Bristol Independent SEND Community, a campaign group of parents and carers, criticised the council for its ‘abject failure’ and said that ‘SEND provision in Bristol remains in crisis’.

Last year, parents won a legal challenge against the council’s proposed £5m cuts to its SEND budget.

The report highlights ‘significant issues’ and states: ‘A service restructure is underway to address the under-performance.’

It is attributed to staff shortages, an increase in requests for statutory assessments nationally, and resourcing.

Earlier this month the SEND team was restructured and recruitment of new staff is in progress, with new arrivals expected at the start of January.

The reports adds: ‘New working practices have also been designed to improve statutory timescales and quality of service to families and young people.’

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