Almost all care plans for disabled children in Nottinghamshire ready in time despite national slump
Almost all of the Education, Health and Care Plans approved in Nottinghamshire were processed on time last year, despite a drop in performance nationally.
The plans allow families to access tailored assistance for children and young people with disabilities and special educational needs but delays in creating them mean youngsters across England are struggling to access vital help, disability charity Scope says.
By law, councils have 20 weeks from the date of a request being made to craft a plan.
Department for Education statistics show Nottinghamshire Council processed 98 per cent of plans within that time frame in 2020, meaning it performed better than most other areas in the country.
That figure was higher than in 2019, when 85 per cent were approved on time.
It contrasts with the picture across England as a whole, where the proportion of plans issued within 20 weeks fell to 58 per cent last year, down from 60 per cent in 2019.
The figures exclude cases where exceptions to the normal timescale applied – including any impacted by changes to council services in order to reduce the spread of Covid-19 between May 1 and September 25 last year, when the laws were temporarily relaxed.
Classed as legal documents, EHCPs can only be approved where families have already exhausted all support options available in schools and other educational settings and require further help.
Once in place, they allow youngsters to receive funded support tailored to their specific needs, from individual classroom assistance to speech and language therapy.
There is stark variation across local authorities, figures show, with just seven councils hitting the 20-week target for all cases in 2020.
Delays were most likely to be experienced in Hampshire, where just 1.5 per cent of plans were approved in time.
Scope's Louise Rubin said families nationally are struggling to access support, with delays having a ‘massive impact’ on disabled children.
She said: “Parents have told us about the stresses of applying for an EHCP as it can be a confusing and complex process and delays can make this worse.
“While families wait for an EHCP, the child will be missing out on the appropriate education, but also health and social care support.
“Their needs aren't being met. This can have a negative effect on their development, wellbeing and increase feelings of isolation.
“And this stress and pressures affects not only the children but the whole family.”
Coun Anntoinette Bramble from the Local Government Association said the demand for EHC plans was a pressing issue for councils and called on the Government to urgently complete its review and provide local authorities with long-term funding to meet the needs of children with special educational needs.
The figures also show Nottinghamshire council received 674 new requests for EHCPs last year, up from 667 in 2019, and approved 465 new plans.
In January, more than 430,000 children and young people in England had EHCPs in place – with 3,033 in Nottinghamshire.
A Department for Education spokesman said it is reassuring that support via EHCPs has continued throughout the pandemic, adding that it is providing £1.7 billion to help those who have been most impacted by time out of the classroom, on top of £8 billion in high needs funding.
He added: "We know there is more to do to address the remaining challenges in the system, which is why our ongoing SEND Review is looking at how to make the system more consistent, high-quality and joined-up for every young person it supports.”