Today, Friday 4 October, the local government ombudsman published a report on the quality of services for #SEND (special educational needs and disabilities).

The coverage says that the ombudsman has ruled in favour of nearly 90% of appeals against care decisions. The report itself notes that this was for only a small number of cases.

Responding to a report by the Local Government Ombudsman report on the education, health and care plans for children with special educational needs, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, Cllr Judith Blake, said:

“This report supports our long-term concerns that councils are in danger of being unable to meet their statutory duties for children with special educational needs.

“While we are pleased the Government has announced an additional £700 million for children with special educational needs, without certainty over funding for the future the situation will get worse as the number of children who need support continues to increase.

“There are currently 354,000 pupils with Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) – which state the support a child with SEND can receive, and is a 11 per cent increase since last year.

“This is why we are also pleased the Government plans to review the system, and will work with them to get a clear picture of what more can be done to make sure vulnerable children can get the best support possible.”

Jo Campion, Deputy Director at the National Deaf Children’s Society, said:

“The findings of this report are appalling, but sadly come as little surprise. Disabled children are clearly not getting the support they need, even when it’s meant to be legally guaranteed by an Education, Health and Care Plan.

“Parents are already marching in the streets and taking the Government to court to get the support their children desperately rely on, but tragically don’t receive. If any more evidence were needed that the special educational needs system is in crisis, then this is it.

“The Government’s recent announcement of an extra £700m for the SEND system could be a real game-changer, but it’s time to sign the cheques and get this money to the frontline immediately. The futures of 1.3 million disabled children are currently hanging in the balance.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

“As the Ombudsman admits, this report is based on a very small sample size – covering less than 0.3% of all cases in 2018. 

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“Over 48,000 children were issued with new Education and Health Care Plans in last year, and the majority of these were completed within 20 weeks. During the assessment process children continue to attend their school and receive additional support, until their tailored support package is put into place.

“We’ve also announced an extra £700 million for pupils with complex needs in 2020/21 – an 11% increase on this year.

“However, we know the system is not working well enough for every family, and have launched a review to introduce further improvements.”

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has carried out detailed investigations regarding 127 cases last year, which accounts for less than 0.3% of all the new EHCPs that were issued in 2018. The problems found in these cases are still concerning and we want to make sure we understand what is causing these issues for families.

Excluding exception cases, of 45,145 new EHC plans issued in 2018, 60.1% were issued within 20 weeks (excluding exception cases).

Exception cases are where there are exceptional circumstances that prevent the LA from completing the EHC plan process within the statutory timescale. They are defined in the SEND Code of Practice and include where a school is closed for at least 4 weeks (eg over the summer), where the child or young person is absent from the area for a period of at least 4 weeks and where there are exceptional circumstances affecting the family.

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