How does provision for health, educational, and social needs differ between boroughs?
PUBLISHED: 12:10 28 November 2017 | UPDATED: 12:10 28 November 2017
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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 all statements must be transferred over to plans by next April 2018, apart from a minority of cases where support needs may have changed.
However, EHC assessments are not automatically granted by councils and some parents say they are struggling to get the help they desperately need.
At a national level, 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.
Tower Hamlets was the third lowest of several east London boroughs to issue new EHC plans within 20 weeks, measuring from the date of the assessment to when the EHC plan is given.
In 2016, the council only managed to deliver 57.8pc of new EHC plans within 20 weeks - excluding exceptional cases - compared to 99.3pc in 2015.
However, the figures show there was a rise in the number of plans, from 140 in 2015 to 211 in 2016, demonstrating an accelerating workload.
In contrast, neighbouring boroughs Barking and Dagenham provided 83.1pc of its new EHC plans within 20 weeks in 2016, while the figure in Havering was 79.7pc, followed by Redbridge with 51pc and 33.3pc in Newham.
Regarding the transfer of existing statements to EHC plans, Tower Hamlets has fared better than some of its east London neighbours.
This year, there were 1,206 children or young people with a EHC plan compared to 1,006 with a statement.
In comparison, Barking and Dagenham had 867 statements and only 365 plans, while Havering had 580 statements and 556 plans.
Overall, Tower Hamlets has 2,212 children or young people with an existing statement or plan in place for 2017 - the second highest of any London local authority except for Croydon with 2,491.
A council spokeswoman said: “A high proportion of pupils with statements or EHC plans is likely due to a combination of many factors including high levels of deprivation in the borough, as Tower Hamlets has the highest child poverty rate in the country.
“Analysis of our school census data also tells us that pupils with a statement or EHC plan are more likely to be eligible for free school meals than pupils with no SEN needs.
“Also, all of the special schools in Tower Hamlets are rated as Outstanding by OFSTED, which may attract parents of children with SEN needs to move into the borough.”