How does provision for educational, health and social needs differ between east London boroughs?
- Credit: Swanlea
If you’re a parent of a child with special needs, you will have seen changes to available support since new government legislation was launched in 2014.
Children and young people aged up to 25 who require extra help for their educational, health and social needs now receive an education, health and care (EHC) plan.
It’s a legal document outlining the extra help each child must receive from their local authority and replaces the previous “statement” of special educational needs (SEN), which focused on learning needs.
The government has said all statements must be transferred over to plans by next April 2018, apart from a minority of cases where support needs may have changed.
However, EHC assessments are not automatically granted by councils and some parents say they are struggling to get the help they desperately need - read Sadia’s story for more.
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At a national level, there was a 35 per cent increase between 2015 and 2016 in the number of local authorities who refused to carry out EHC or SEN needs assessments on children while at tribunal level, 86pc of council decisions were overturned.
The data, from the Department of Health, also pulled up interesting variances between east London boroughs.
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In 2016, 136 children and young people, or 9.4pc, were rejected for a EHC plan by Havering Council following an assessment - the highest of any London local authority.
In comparison, the figure was 5.7pc in Barking and Dagenham and an even smaller 1.1pc in Redbridge, despite it having 276 cases.
A Havering Council spokeswoman said the local authority had a “robust and multi-agency decision-making process” to consider each plan individually and some children did not necessarily need an EHC plan.
She added: “We invest in a high quality support team of specialist advisory teachers and educational psychologists, and in the EHC assessment phase it can be agreed that this team should be involved.
“This intervention alongside experienced staff within educational settings, can lead to an EHC plan not being required.”
Elsewhere the transfer of existing statements over to EHC plans has been slow progress in Havering.
Out of 785 statements, only 23.6pc had been moved to a EHC plan by January of this year, although this has now gone up.
However this was a marked rise on 2015, the first year of the implementation, when there were 1,462 statements and just 10 EHC plans.
In 2017, Barking and Dagenham had 365 EHC plans and 867 SEN statements while in Tower Hamlets it was 1,206 EHC plans and 1,006 statements.
Meanwhile, Havering had 556 EHC plans and 580 statements, and Redbridge had 1,001 EHC plans and 580 statements.
Newham had just 362 EHC plans compared to 258 statements, meaning it was the third lowest borough in London to distribute them.
Commenting on the figures, a Havering Council spokeswoman said: “The progress toward transferring children and young people’s statements to EHC plans started slowly in 2014/15, this was due to a service restructure to establish an integrated social care and education service.
“The structure was the best fit to really embrace the Children and Families Act and make a difference to our children and young people with special educational need and disabilities (SEND) in Havering.
“Since the restructure we have increased the rate in which we work with children and their families to transfer to the EHC plan.”