Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, Michael King revealed his office was now upholding 80 per cent of complaints it investigates about Education and Health Care Plans (EHCP) at this week’s SEN Law Conference.
Speaking at the event in London on Tuesday (6th), Mr King told the audience of lawyers, parents, representatives of local and national government and the third sector, the Ombudsman had now investigated nearly 140 cases in detail – and upheld eight out of 10 of those.
Mr King said:
“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 plans by April 2018, however, the Ombudsman is seeing significant delays in the process – sometimes by up to 90 weeks. Other problems regularly seen by investigators 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.
This week’s announcement follows the publication of the Ombudsman’s focus report on the problems faced by parents of children with Special Educational Needs, based on its first 100 investigations. Published in October, 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 Special Educational Needs the best possible start.
Article date: 06 March 2018