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How does provision for educational, health and social needs differ between east London boroughs?

PUBLISHED: 13:00 24 November 2017

'Transition Day' when new pupils joined Whitechapel's Swanlea Secondary School in 2016. Picture: Swanlea School

'Transition Day' when new pupils joined Whitechapel's Swanlea Secondary School in 2016. Picture: Swanlea School

Swanlea

If you’re a parent of a child with special needs, you will have seen changes to available support since new government legislation was launched in 2014.

Children and young people aged up to 25 who require extra help for their educational, health and social needs now receive an education, health and care (EHC) plan.

It’s a legal document outlining the extra help each child must receive from their local authority and replaces the previous “statement” of special educational needs (SEN), which focused on learning needs.

The government has stated all statements must be transferred over to plans by next April 2018, apart from a minority of cases where support needs may have changed.

However, EHC assessments are not automatically granted by councils and some parents say they are struggling to get the help they desperately need - read Sadia’s story for more.

At a national level, there was a 35 per cent increase between 2015 and 2016 in the number of local authorities who refused to carry out EHC or SEN needs assessments on children while at tribunal level, 86pc of council decisions were overturned.

The most recent Department of Health data has also pulled up interesting variances between east London boroughs.

Redbridge was the second lowest of five east London local authorities to issue new EHC plans within the 20-week government guideline period, measuring from the date of the assessment to when the EHC plan is given.

In 2016, the council only managed to deliver 51pc of new EHC plans within 20 weeks - excluding exceptional cases - although this was a marked improvement on the year before when the figure was just 12.5pc.

In contrast, neighbouring boroughs Barking and Dagenham provided 83.1pc of its new EHC plans within 20 weeks in 2016, while the figure in Havering was 79.7pc, followed by Tower Hamlets with 57.8pc and 33.3pc in Newham.

The data did reveal a rise in the number of plans, from 88 in 2015 to 255 in 2016, demonstrating an accelerating workload for staff.

Redbridge also came second highest out of the five areas for the total number of children or young people on an existing statement or plan for 2017.

There were 1,709 in total, broken down into 708 statements and 1,001 plans.

In fact, only Tower Hamlets came higher with 2,212 children or young people on an existing statement or plan for 2017 - and that was the second highest of any London local authority except for Croydon with 2,491.

In comparison, Barking and Dagenham only had 867 statements and 365 plans, while Havering had 580 statements and 556 plans.

A spokeswoman for Redbridge Council acknowledged the team had been forced to boost staffing numbers to respond to the changing demands.

She said: “As in many local authorities, the implementation of the SEND (special educational needs and disability) reforms including transferring a system from statements to EHC plans has placed significant performance pressures on SEN teams.

“This has been recognised by Redbridge Council who has invested in significantly increasing the number of EHCP co-ordinators within the SEN team.

“As a result of increased capacity accompanied by system change we are working to improve our performance against statutory timescales.”

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