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Squeeze on SEN funding makes getting professional advice essential

by Victoria Federico

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Results of a survey by the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) released yesterday show that 94% of those heads who participated in the report believe ‘it is now more difficult to resource SEND provision than it was two years ago’.

The survey, conducted in June 2018, is accompanied by a report – ‘Empty promises – the crisis in support children with SEND’ – which indicated that 73% of respondents said it was harder to resource support for pupils with SEND due to cuts to mainstream funding. The head teachers also said that further cuts to teaching assistants and pastoral staff have also had a major impact on schools supporting their most vulnerable pupils.

70% of respondents said cuts to health and social care budgets also made it more difficult to support children with additional needs. 83% report that they have not received any funding from these budgets to support pupils with statements or an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP).

Despite the fact that there are statutory deadlines for local authorities completing an assessment and for an EHCP to be produced, the report confirms that there are long delays in the process. 15% of those eligible and entitled to support waited over six months from initial referral for an education, health and care needs assessment and 39% waited over six months from referral for an EHCP to be produced.

Local authorities have to decide whether or not to carry out an assessment within six weeks of the request being made. The overall time for an EHCP being issued is 20 weeks. If no plan is issued, parents have to be notified within 16 weeks.

Delays of this nature are commonplace even when local authorities are sympathetic or aware of the issues involved. When parents face an obstructive or uncooperative local authority, as was the case with Claire Gerring and her son Oscar Gerring, getting the right SEN support for a child can be a lengthy and emotionally exhausting process.

Commenting on the survey, Victoria Federico, head of Shoosmiths education law team, said:

‘There is no reason why children and schools should be put in this position. Local authorities are legally required to provide youngsters with identified special educational needs with an appropriate education. The NAHT survey reinforces that fact that it’s even more important for parents to obtain expert advice and opinion to secure the correct SEN provision.’

Getting the content of an EHCP right is crucial, as is ensuring that the right level of funding is provided by the local authority. Shoosmiths education law team has extensive experience in supporting families and young people in getting an EHCP with the correct provision, adequately funded, written into the plan, working in conjunction with parents and schools to secure the best possible support for a child’s needs.

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