DfE planning ‘large-scale’ value-for-money review of pupils’ EHC plans

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The government is planning a “large-scale” value-for-money study of the provision provided to children with special educational needs and disabilities.

The Department for Education has today finally responded to the education select committee’s damning SEND inquiry, rejecting accusations that government reforms had “set councils up to fail”.

But in its six months overdue response, the DfE did admit the “SEND system is not working as well as it should”.

Teachers have been waiting to hear how the Government intends to fix the flaws that lead to young people missing out on support

The committee’s report, which followed an 18-month inquiry, concluded while the 2014 SEND reforms were the right ones, poor implementation had put councils under pressure, left schools struggling to cope and thrown families into crisis.

Among other things, the reforms saw the introduction of education, health and care plans (EHCPs) as a replacement for statements, and the extension of support to young adults up to the age of 24.

One of the report’s more serious accusations was that the government had set councils up to fail by making “serious errors both in how it administered money intended for change, and also, until recently, failing to provide extra money when it was needed”.

But the government rejected this, saying it’s working with the treasury and other government departments to “understand the total costs of supporting pupils with SEND”, so they can take a “joined-up approach to considering questions of value for money and sustainability”.

The department also revealed its planning to launch a value-for-money study of SEND provision to provide information on the outcomes achieved and costs of different types of settings for youngsters with EHC plans.

It follows evidence that getting an EHC is a postcode lottery.

But while “preliminary analysis needed ahead of the commissioning of such a study is currently underway”, the department admitted publication of the survey has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

They added it would be published “as soon as possible”.

The government also agreed the process for awarding EHC plans “should be looked at, with a view to clarifying and, as far as possible, seeking to simplify it”. This is being considered under the DfE SEND review.

Robert Halfon MP, chair of the education committee, said families, schools and children have been “waiting to hear how the Government intends to fix the flaws that lead to many young people missing out on the support they need”.

While he was “pleased” the government “recognises the system ‘must improve’”, he said families “continue to face a treacle of bureaucracy, a postcode lottery of provision, buck-passing and confusion in a system that breeds conflict”.

Halfon will be following up on the government’s response with education secretary Gavin Williamson in the autumn, adding: “The coronavirus pandemic has brought new challenges for young people with SEND.”

The government also revealed in it’s a response that the National SEND Tribunal Trial is piloting whether the First Tier Tribunal making non-binding recommendations on health and social care matters is “an effective means of ensuring better join up”.

The government’s reforms have been blamed for causing a “record backlog” in SEND tribunals.

The trial was due to end in August, but the government said it’s “not the right time” to introduce any policy changes during the coronavirus pandemic. The trial has instead been extended until August next year.

The DfE added it’s “committed to making sure that every child gets the support they need to thrive, which is why the SEND Review is actively considering ways to deliver greater consistency in the quality and availability of provision to meet the needs of children and young people with SEND, including those without EHC plans”.


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  1. Whyte

    This is way over due. There are thousands of young people who have EHC plans and are not in full-time education. In addition, many of these plans are actually out of date.

    • Heidi

      I agree! The Government need to stop overlooking SEN and plough much needed provision in order for our most vulnerable young people to achieve positive outcomes

  2. Ruth Preece

    There are many thing that need changing for EHCP provision, not the least a nationwide consistent approach to plans, process, provision and funding. I hope they will.consult with professionals in schools, parents and other areas for feedback from those work daily with these plans.

  3. Ros Facey

    This review is vital.One of its requirements needs to include utilising the knowledge and expertise of the many dedicated professionals who understand how to develop and implement individually tailor made EHC plans which meet each person’s unique requirements and service provision needs to be co-ordinated to function co-operatively and not competitively to meet those needs.Most importantly, we really do need to finally learn to listen to the parents who are in the majority of cases, their own child’s expert.

  4. Paula Holden

    The main problem is the 3 key agencies totally refuse to talk to each other! The commissioners are so busy guarding their budgets that the children and young people suffer..

    They other reason is the whole system is not fit for purpose. Poor understanding of disability, especially autism, poor listening to parents needs, professionals that are either incompetent, quick to judge or so exhausted that they are burnt out and the wrong services in place to support need.

    How many reviews does one system need before something is done properly.