How does provision for educational, health and social needs differ between east London boroughs?
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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 that all statements much be transferred over to plans by next April 2018.
However, EHC assessments are not automatically granted by councils and some parents have struggled to get the help they desperately need.
Nationally, there was a 35pc 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.
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Compared to its neighbouring boroughs, Barking has been lagging behind in the transfer of its SEN statements to EHC plans.
In 2015, the first year that the changes were implemented, it had 1,025 statements and no transfers.
The following year, only 225 statements had changed to EHC plans while this year that number was 365.
Over in Tower Hamlets, the council was working to 1,206 EHC plans this year, while Havering had 556 and Redbridge had 1,001.
Only Newham fared lower with 362 EHC plans, making it the third lowest borough in London.
A Barking and Dagenham Council spokesman said: “The council is determined to have completed the transfer of all statements of special educational needs to education, health and care plans (EHC) by the government’s April 2018 deadline.
“In terms of the percentage of EHC plans being issued, in relation to the number of students in the borough, remains at approximately 2.4pc, which is similar to the performance of other local boroughs.
“We believe the increase in the number of requests for EHC assessments reflects the changing needs of our borough but also that our schools are also becoming more experienced in understanding the needs of pupils.”
Interestingly, Barking and Dagenham fared much better against its neighbours when it came to issuing new EHC plans within the recommended government guideline period of 20 weeks.
In 2016, 83.1pc of its applications were issued within the timeframe, compared to 79.7pc in Havering, 57.8pc in Tower Hamlets and 51pc in Redbridge.
Newham came out the lowest, only managing to deliver 33.3 per cent of new EHC plans within 20 weeks, a drop of 48pc from the year before despite 48 fewer plans being issued.
More information about EHC plans can be found at lbbd.gov.uk or gov.uk/children-with-special-educational-needs