LGO EHCP Complaints Rise – Bristol City Council Still Fails To Deliver On Time

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The number of complaints about the provision of special educational needs and/or disabilities – Send – against local authorities has risen so dramatically, the body in charge of dealing with them is now ‘concerned’.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGO) is the final stage for complaints about councils, a process that can be so difficult to get through that parents often give up during the process.

Now the LGO is saying the number of complaints they do receive about Send is increasing at ‘alarming level’ with children being ‘failed’ by a system designed to support them.

The LGO’s latest report about Education, Health and Care (EHC)  Plans finds that it is upholding nearly nine out of every ten cases it investigates – an 87 per cent.

The Ombudsman is now investigating more complaints than it has ever done before. In 2018-19 it received 45 per cent more complaints and carried out 80 per cent more detailed investigations about EHC plans than in 2016-17.

Serious issues are detailed in its new report Not Going To Plan, which finds severe delays of up to 90 weeks and ‘regularly of more than a year’ just to issue the plan. Local Authorities are also failing to anticipate local needs and there is a ‘lack’ of oversight by senior LA staff.

Vulnerable children are being failed because they are not getting the right support at the right time, affecting their education and attainment.

Ombudsman Michael King said: “We are now upholding almost nine in 10 investigations we carry out about Education, Health and Care plans. This is exceptional and unprecedented in our work. Two years ago when the system was bedding in, we were concerned we were upholding around 80% of investigations. That we are investigating and upholding significantly more complaints two years later suggests a system in crisis.

“I am now particularly concerned some authorities may be putting in place extra barriers to ration scarce resources, rather than basing support on children’s needs. While I can empathise with the difficulties authorities face, there can never be an excuse for failing to meet the statutory rights of children.

“I hope this report puts the children and their families’ experiences in the spotlight and the battles they face, and ultimately more urgency on the whole SEND system improving.”

In Bristol, the EHCP process continues to remain bleak. The People Scrutiny Commission will be hearing on 14 October 2019, that during the first quarter of the year, there were ‘significant issues with the number of Education Health Care Plans that are issued within timescales’. Only 2 of 169 EHCPs were issued within statutory time frames. Despite being in October, the service is ‘expected to deliver improved performance over the coming year’.

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