Eight out of ten complaints about Education and Health Care Plans (EHCPs) investigated by the office of the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman are now being upheld, the post-holder Michael King has revealed.
Speaking at a conference on special educational needs (SEN) law in London, the Ombudsman said his office had now investigated nearly 140 cases in detail — and upheld 80 per cent of them.
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 EHC plans have not occurred by the deadline.
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.
All children with existing statements of SEN should be transferred to the new EHC plans by April 2018, however, the Ombudsman is seeing significant delays in the process — sometimes by up to 90 weeks.
Other problems investigators see regularly include failing to involve parents and young people properly in the decision-making process, not gathering sufficient evidence to inform decisions, and a lack of proper forward planning when young people move between key educational stages.
King’s announcement follows the publication of Education, Health and Care Plans: our first 100 investigations, the Ombudsman’s focus report on the problems faced by parents of children with SEN published in October 2017. The report highlighted the ‘disproportionate burden’ faced by parents fighting for their children to get the support they are entitled to.
The report gives local authorities best practice guidance to help councils get things right. It also offers councillors and scrutiny chairs a number of questions they can ask of their own authorities to ensure they offer children and young people with SEN the best possible start.