Suffolk turns around struggling performance on care plans for special educational needs youngsters
PUBLISHED: 12:00 16 May 2020
Special educational needs bosses in Suffolk have turned around the ailing performance in processing care plan assessments, and are now above the national average it has emerged.
Education health and care plans (EHCPs) are issued to youngsters with complex special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and provides a tailored pathway for them to make progress.
Those plans are meant to be completed in 20 weeks or less, but data published last year revealed that in Suffolk that target time had not been hit by as much as 75% of cases at its peak.
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Having put in place an action plan, Suffolk County Council’s education team has now reported that the timeliness has been significantly improved and now sits at 67% being completed in that time between January and April this year – above the 60% national target.
Judith Mobbs, assistant director for inclusion and skills, said: “We are continuing to focus on those [EHCPs] despite the lockdown.
“We are doing a lot more work with families online, but we are still responding to new requests for assessments.
“Last year we spent a lot of time clearing the backlog and as a result of that our figures for timeliness were not where we would want them to be.
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“But since the beginning of 2020 we are now above national average in terms of our timely completion.
“We have been making sure that we had a really good foundation for that work, and that we would be able to secure an improvement that would be sustainable.
“The fact that we have managed to continue that through this period of challenge is really testament to the foundations that we now have in that service and the strategies in place.”
The council’s action plan included more outreach workers to put in places measures earlier, and resources put into clearing the backlog.
Councillor Jack Abbott, education spokesman from the opposition Labour group welcomed the news, despite concerns over the Government’s relaxing of some EHCP targets nationally during the coronavirus lockdown.
He said: “It is encouraging that, after years of problems in this area, we are beginning to make some progress.
“I know of many children who have had to wait a very long time for their EHCP, so to increase the number of completed plans within the 20 week period and get to grips with the large backlog are important steps forward.
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“The challenge now for Suffolk County Council is to ensure that the plans are of high quality, that they can maintain and improve on this progress, and that they have resources in place to cope with a rise in demand following the coronavirus crisis.
“Clearly, there is still much work to do, with a third of children still not having their plans finalised within the 20 week legal timeframe. The educational and social impact of this can be immense, so it is critical that improvements are quickly made to ensure that no child is left without the support they desperately need.”
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