Families of children with special educational needs are sometimes facing a ‘disproportionate burden’ to ensure they get the support they need, Ombudsman warns.
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGO) has published a report looking at the common issues identified in its first 100 investigations into complaints about the new Education Health and Care (EHC) Plans introduced in 2014.
The plans are for children and young people aged up to 25 who need more help than is available through special educational needs support. They identify educational, health and social needs and set out what is required to meet them.
The LGO’s report says the system is not ‘failing universally’ but still has ‘significant problems.’
All children with existing Statements of SEN should be transferred to the new plans by April 2018. However, by January this year just under a third of those pupils with statements in place 12 months earlier were transferred to EHC plans.
In addition, many plans are not being completed on time, with less than 60% of new EHC plans issued within the 20 week timescale in 2016.
To date the LGO has not received many complaints. However, the number of complaints and enquires that have been made have doubled in the last two years. Also, because there are a large number of Statements of SEN to be transferred, the Ombudsman warns the number of complaints will continue to rise.
Out of the complaints the LGO has received, investigators have upheld nearly 80%. This is far in excess of the Ombudsman’s average of 53%.
Others issues included in the report include: failing to involve parents and young people properly in the decision-making process, not gathering sufficient evidence to inform decisions, and a lack of proper forward planning when young people move between key educational stages.
Responding to the report, Cllr Richard Watts, chair of the Local Government Association’s (LGA) Children and Young People Board, said: ‘Councils are working hard to ensure all children with SEND are getting the support that they need however, this is a new and complex system which councils and other agencies, including health partners and schools, are trying to navigate.
‘With transitional funding set to end in March 2018, there is increasing concern among councils that at a time of rising demand, they will be unable to meet the needs of children and families in their areas.
‘Councils are clear that the Government should provide additional and ongoing funding to meet this need, otherwise councils may not be able to meet their statutory duties and children with high needs or disabilities could miss out on a mainstream education.’