Children with special educational needs have to wait longer in Norfolk for help than almost anywhere else in country

Pupil in a classroom. Picture: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

Pupil in a classroom. Picture: Chris Radburn/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Hundreds of children in Norfolk and Suffolk with special educational needs are having to wait longer than they should to get support.

Norman Lamb. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Norman Lamb. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE - Credit: Archant

Youngsters aged up to 25 with special educational needs (SEN) get help through an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP), which is drawn up by the local council.

National guidelines say a final EHCP should be issued no more than 20 weeks after a needs assessment is requested.

But Norfolk was one of the worst performing councils in England last year for getting EHCPs issued on time.

Of the 448 EHCPs drawn up, just 5.6pc were done within the 20 weeks, the fifth lowest figure in the country.

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It compares to 28.5pc in Suffolk, 87.5pc in Cambridgeshire and an east of England average of 50.8pc.

The worst performing local authorities were Hartlepool, 0pc, Dorset, 1.9pc, Hampshire, 4.5pc, Walsall, 5.3pc, and then Norfolk.

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Kayleigh Gray from Earlham has been fighting to get an education for her son Lewis, 12, who has ADHD

Kayleigh Gray from Earlham has been fighting to get an education for her son Lewis, 12, who has ADHD and was excluded from school a year ago. Photo: Kayleigh Gray - Credit: Archant

Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrat candidate for North Norfolk, said he plans to write to Norfolk County Council to ask what will be done to improve performance.

'These are really shocking figures which demand urgent improvement,' he said. 'We are letting families and children down by failing to give vital support quickly enough.

'Young people with SEND who require higher levels of support in Norfolk are not getting it as quickly as people in the rest of the country, or even the rest of East Anglia.

'Perhaps the most alarming thing is that the situation seems to be getting worse rather than better. There is a real injustice here.'

MORE: Parents battle to secure support for Norfolk children with special educational needs

Kayleigh Gray, from Earlham, spoke out last week about how she had waited almost 12 months for an EHCP for her 12-year-old son Lewis.

National regulations allow for exceptions to time limits in certain cases. Including cases where exceptions applied, 5.8pc of new EHC plans were issued within 20 weeks in Norfolk during 2016.

A Norfolk County Council spokesperson accepted performance was 'not yet good enough' and apologised to delayed families.

They said they had brought in additional staff and that current figures suggested that 60pc of new requests were being met in time.

They said: 'It is important to get these reports right and we don't want to sacrifice quality in order to hit a timescale target.

'We work closely with families to plan together for children and in a significant number of cases it is families who ask for longer to look at the draft plan, to input new information and ensure that they are completely happy with it before it is signed off.'

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