SEND reforms: Majority of children transferred ahead of deadline

The vast majority of children with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) have been transferred onto new education, health and care (EHC) plans ahead of this weekend's deadline, although thousands are still waiting, government figures show.

Statistics released by the Department for Education show that as of 1 March there were 14,305 children who had not yet been issued with a educational, health and care (EHC) plan.

This means that local authorities have transitioned 94 per cent of the 236,225 children who had special educational needs (SEN) statements when the transfer process began in September 2014.

The figure represents a significant increase in the pace of children being moved from SEN statements to EHC plans in the past 12 months as the 1 April deadline approaches.

In May 2017 the DfE reported that the number of children transferred to EHC plans had yet to pass the halfway mark, leading to concerns that many would still be waiting for or undergoing transfer assessments when the April deadline passed.

In December, these concerns prompted the DfE to provide councils with an additional £45m of funding to help them meet the deadline.

Children and families minister Nadhim Zahawi welcomed the progress made by councils: "It's been a huge task to transfer every young person to one of these plans but local authorities have risen to the challenge with almost 222,000 cases reviewed and I congratulate them for it.

"We are now working with councils to make sure they carry out the remaining reviews and the new EHC plans are of the highest quality."

But a Local Government Association spokesman said: "Councils are working hard to make sure children with SEN and disabilities get access to the support they need. However, this is proving a significant challenge due to the significant underfunding of the reforms set out in the Children and Families Act, combined with an increasing demand for support for children and young people with SEN and disabilities.

"The system is at breaking point, which the government has recognised by giving councils around £240m extra in transitional funding over the past 12 months to help implement SEN and disabilities reform. We are clear however that this funding must continue beyond April if the system is going to continue to function."

The DfE has also published the results of a survey of 13,643 families who have gone through the process.

The report on the survey says that two thirds of respondents were satisfied with the overall process while one in 10 were unhappy with the process.

Most of the respondents said it took their local authority more than the target 20 weeks to move them onto an EHC plan but, the report noted, this conflicts with data collected by the DfE, which shows most plans were provided within the timeframe.

"The difference may reflect respondents timing the process from an earlier point, imprecisions in respondents' estimates, and plans exempt from the 20-week timeframe being included in the survey data," says the report.

EHC plans were introduced in the Children and Families Act 2014 and billed as providing children with special needs and disabilities more joined-up support from education, health and social care services.

Local authorities are required to carry out transfer reviews before moving children onto EHC plans. All children with SEN statements are expected to receive an EHC plan.

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