Pupils with special educational needs are waiting up to 90 weeks, or almost two years, to be transferred from the old statements system to new education and health care plans (EHCPs), according to an investigation which found “worrying patterns of delay”.
All SEND pupils are supposed to be moved on to new EHCPs – the new way of identifying pupils’ support needs – by April. These replace statements of special educational needs, which the government started to phase out in 2014.
But the local government and social care ombudsman found many local authorities are struggling to meet the deadline, and revealed that around 80 per cent of the 140 complaints about councils’ handling of the transfer process have been upheld.
Schools rely on EHCPs to tell them about pupils’ support needs and to access additional funding for them.
But Michael King, the ombudsman, found some councils are not gathering sufficient evidence to inform decisions and have been failing to plan properly for pupils steps up between “key educational stages”.
“We know many authorities are struggling to meet the April deadline for transferring statements, and I want to stress they need to ensure provision remains in place if transfers to EHCPs have not occurred by the deadline,” King told delegates at this week’s SEN Law Conference.
“In the cases that come to us, we are seeing worrying patterns of delay, inadequate evidence-gathering and poor administration, and this is having a significant impact on the children and families the new plans were designed to help.
“While we recognise the increasing pressure on children’s services departments, we will continue to make decisions based on the law, guidance and rights and not on diminishing budgets.”