Written Statement of Action Progress Report regarding EHCPs doesn’t match families’ experiences community says
Upset has been caused in the Bristol Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (Send) community, after a report by Bristol City Council released this month did not match parent carers’ experiences of Local Authority systems.
The final Written Statement of Action (WSoA) progress report has been released by the council as part of its response to ‘significant areas of weakness’ discovered by Ofsted and the CQC as part of a joint Send inspection in November 2019.
The final statement was quietly released by the council on the 05 November, although remained unnoticed by parent carers until a post regarding its publication was published on the Local Offer website this week.
The post said: ‘The final Written Statement of Action (WSoA) progress report is now available at https://bit.ly/3F12WVb In 2019, Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission carried out an inspection of #SEND support in Bristol and identified a number of key areas for improvement. We created the WSoA, setting ‘milestones’ every 4 months to achieve our aims. The final milestone was in July 2021, and this report looks at the progress made.’
The post was met with derision on Facebook. One parent carer said the report was ‘full of lies’ and asked how the ‘fractured parental relationships’ can be repaired whilst the council produces ‘manipulation’ like this.
Another said that her child’s school could finally meet ‘some’ of his needs. But that it took a tribunal, private reports paid for by the family and two Judicial Review pre-action Protocol letters to get the council to abide by a Sendist Tribunal order. ‘Are you honestly trying to tell us BCC should get the credit for that?’
Bristol Send campaigner Sally Kent, Tweeted Asher Craig, the Deputy Mayor with responsibility for Children’s Services, Education and Equalities, in a series of Tweets highlighting the dissonance between the report’s statements and the city’s parent carer experiences.
31st Aug 21, 625 requests in system— Sally K (@southwestehcp) November 9, 2021
123 children currently between 20-30 weeks
116 children currently between 30-40
81 children currently over 40 weeks.
This is a 20 week statutory process.
What does you WSoA say @CllrAsherCraig?
Concern regarding the RAG (Red, Amber Green) Rating of Send targets regarding the timeliness of Education Health Care Plans (EHCPs) had been raised by Councillor Tim Kent, at Overview and Scrutiny Management Board (OSMB) in October.
Council data showed that as of 31 August 2021, of 625 ‘live’ EHCP applications, 320 were unlawfully past the 20 week time frame. Of those, 81 were already over 40 weeks which is double the amount of time the law allows.
But EHCP performance data sent to OSMB had Rag Rated EHCP performance as Green. Kent said in the meeting that although everything ‘looks good’ with the traffic light system, it’s only once you ‘dig underneath’ the numbers that you realise there is a ‘major problem.’
Chief Executive of Bristol City Council, Mike Jackson told Kent that the performance indicators were the ‘start of a conversation about performance’ and that no one was going to ‘hide anything’.
The Final Written Statement of Action (WSoA) progress report, for Priority Three covers ‘The dysfunctional EHC plan process, and inadequate quality of EHC plans. The section where Children, young people and families report improved timeliness and quality of health EHC plan advice, was RAG Rated Amber.
The Progress Report references the findings of a spring 2021 parent carer survey which asked about the EHC Needs Assessment (EHCNA) process during the previous 12 months. The survey was run by the city’s Parent Carer Forum (PCF) Bristol Parent Carers along with the city’s Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Information Advice and Support Services run by Send And You – Formerly Supportive Parents. Whilst open to all parent carers, the survey only took place online and was ‘accessed’ by just 273 parent carers with only 200 completing the full survey.
This is in stark contrast to the hundreds of parent carers currently navigating the EHCP process in Bristol. But, the the council although failing to reach families is using the small sample of data to evidence improvement to the Department for Education.
The council is using the results of a Survey of Parents and Carers of Children and Young People with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Spring Term 2021, to base its Amber rating. But the survey states that ‘Due to low numbers of responses from parents of pre-school aged children and post 16 young adults, analysis by these subgroups would not be representative or statistically valid.’
It also warns that the analysis by education setting only focuses on mainstream and special schools, with numbers included from other education settings being ‘low’.
The survey charted how many children were in what type of education setting and published it with the data – shown below.
The lack of respondents from non-traditional education settings to the survey is concerning, especially regarding families with children or young people in Alternative Learning Provision.
The November 2020 Alternative Learning Provision Review found ‘extremely high numbers of SEND pupils with EHCPs and in the progress of having EHCPs in ALP.’
It said that ‘High numbers of the pupils going to ALP are then assessed with un-met needs. They go on to have EHCPs but then can’t be found placements.’
However, BPC survey data only recorded the views of 2 families using AP, no families electively home educating by choice and 7 in an unspecified provision.
Just 86 parent carers in the entire city responded to the question from which Bristol City Council is using answers as legitimate feedback from the Bristol Send community for the Written Statement of Action.
Taking the parent carer survey response at face value, just 14 per cent of those 86 families said their experience was excellent, 25.6 per cent said good, 23.3 per cent said satisfactory, 11.6 per cent said poor and 25.6 per cent said very poor.
Under ‘Key Successes relating to Priority Three in the Progress Report, the council wrote that ‘Positive feedback included parents and carers saying that they felt it was an easy process and that they felt well supported throughout.’
But this ignores the majority findings in the BPC survey which found that there were 18 comments raised saying that ‘applying for an EHC plan is a slow process and statutory deadlines are often missed.’
There were 8 further comments about a ‘lack of communication between the Send team and parents, with parents not feeling ‘well informed of progress’.
A further six were ‘unhappy’ with the plan saying it was ‘not specific enough’ had ‘incorrect provision’ or was ‘poorly written’.
There were 5 comments about the ‘lack of support’ completing the process.
Three more had a ‘poor experience’ with the Send team staff.
Two parent carers said it was unhelpful having changes in caseworkers.
Two also said there was a ‘lack of professional input’ into their childs EHCP.
Two parent carers said the process was ‘difficult’.
Two more said it did not include the child’s or family voice.
A further two said there was an ‘incomplete assessment of needs.
Just 9 positive comments were received in the survey regarding the EHCP process, which Bristol City Council frames in the final report: ‘Positive feedback included parents and carers saying that they felt it was an easy process and that they felt well supported throughout.’
Priority Three regarding EHCPs concludes stating: ‘The historic backlog of overdue EHC assessments and plans has been cleared and timeliness has improved significantly, although the timeliness target has not been achieved.’
However, at OSMB last month, Councillor Kent expressed concerns that a new EHCP backlog had formed. He compared data from 2019, 2020 and 2021 saying he was ‘really worried’ with the number of current applications being made yet the council was not ‘upping’ its ability to deal with them.
He said: “I think that needs to be flagged now before it becomes a complete crisis. I think we’re at the beginning of it but soon we will see people waiting again over a year.”
We will be taking a look at all priorities in the final WSoA report