Late education plans mean kids miss out on support in England

Thousands of children in England with complex needs are missing out on support as councils fail to meet care plan deadlines, BBC News has found.

Councils have a legal time limit of 20 weeks, in most cases, to issue an education, health and care plan (EHCP), after a parent or school asks for one.

BBC News has found eight councils met the deadline in fewer than 5% of cases, from April to December last year. Councils say growing demand and insufficient funding cause delays.

An EHCP sets out the extra help a child needs to access education, on top of what is available through special education needs support.Examples of extra support might include one-to-one lesson time, or help to learn at home for those with such complex needs that school is unsuitable.

‘He’s been completely forgotten about’
Sarah Kilgariff, who lives near Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, applied for an EHCP for her son Freddie last July, after the five-year-old suffered a stroke because of a complication from chickenpox.

Ms Kilgariff says Freddie now suffers from fatigue, struggles to regulate his emotions, and is back to wearing nappies.

She says because of his needs, her son cannot attend school full-time. The family are still waiting for their EHCP – more than five months after the 20-week deadline.

“It’s horrific because I can’t do anything because it’s out of my control, and that’s really frustrating,” she says. “He’s been neglected for a year. He’s been completely forgotten about by the systemStaffordshire County Council apologised to the family for the delays. It said Freddie was assessed for a second time in April, after the first test in February failed to meet quality standards. It said a significant increase in requests for EHCP assessments had been made worse by a shortage of educational psychologists, and it had now recruited moreMore than 1.5 million pupils in England have special educational needs or disabilities (Send).

The latest figures from the Department for Education show 517,000 children and young people were on an EHCP in 2023 – the highest on record.

The government has said “high-needs funding” for those with complex needs is rising to £10.5bn in 2024-25 – an increase of more than 60% since 2019-20. It said councils were responsible for making sure children in their area receive appropriate education.

Source: SABC

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