In September 2014, the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) reforms came into effect. From 1 September 2014, any child or young person referred to a local authority for assessment was considered under the new Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan assessment process.
Department for Education statistics show that there were 64,555 requests for children and young people to be assessed for an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) during 2017 – compared with 55,235 in 2016 - a rise of some 17%.
The increase is encouraging, due no doubt to more young people (16-25 years) having an EHCP because more families are aware of the support they are entitled to receive. Local authorities are also seemingly turning plans around slightly quicker - 64.9% of plans were issued within the 20 week deadline this year compared to 58.6% previously.
However, a Times Educational Supplement (TES) investigation in January 2018 found that around 1,000 children still waited longer than a year for their plan in 2016 and the latest statistics indicate that of the new plans produced during 2017, only a third were issued within the statutory 20-week time limit.
Large numbers of those entitled to transfer are still waiting and more than 20% of parental requests for an assessment for additional support with special educational needs were turned down. That means, based on the latest data, that almost 4,000 children are being denied the help they need and are still waiting for their Statement of Special Educational Needs to be transferred to an EHCP despite the fact that the legal deadline for this transfer was 31 March 2018.
This is crucial because a child or young person does not receive the special educational provision they require and benefit from their EHCP until a final EHCP is issued, so many families in need of help and support remain in limbo without a final EHCP in place.
Our education expert solicitors can assist with securing an EHCP and also advise on how to get the content of the EHCP correct. An EHCP is a powerful tool, but it is only effective if it specifies and quantifies exactly what support your child needs.
Victoria Federico, who heads Shoosmiths education law team, says:
‘If parents aren't happy with the placement or provision detailed in the finally completed EHCP we can assist with an appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal to seek changes, but such an appeal must be made within two months of the date of receipt of the new final amended Plan.’
‘Even if the transfer from Statement to an EHCP has been done within the statutory time frame, it is possible that the precise nature of any support is not set out in as much depth and detail as necessary so parents can again seek professional advice to challenge the content of it by appealing if necessary.’
Any families who find themselves still awaiting transfer, or are unhappy with the content of an EHCP or have had an assessment request turned down should contact Victoria and her colleagues as soon as possible for expert advice on how to secure the right provision for their child.