Waits for educational plans still ‘very concerning’

There is a rising demand for Education, Health and Care Plans
By Jamie Waller, Local Democracy Reporter

Nottinghamshire families are waiting more than 250 days on average for plans to support children with additional needs.

Council leaders say improvements are being made after watchdogs raised concerns last year, but admit there is more work to be done.

Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP) are put in place for anyone under 25 who needs extra support in school due to disabilities, health problems or other special needs.

If local authorities agree a child or young person needs a plan, they then have 20 weeks – or 140 days – from the time of request to create one.

In 2022, just 4.5 per cent of children under Nottinghamshire County Council waiting for a plan got it within the required amount of time – something which has already been criticised by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

This has now risen to 28 per cent, but this still leaves 72 per cent of families still waiting more than 20 weeks.

The figures came under scrutiny during a meeting of Nottinghamshire County Council’s Children and Families Committee on Monday (April 15).

Councillor Anne Callaghan (Lab) said it was “very concerning” the average wait had risen back up to 250 days in December – the most recent data available – after dipping to around 170 days in June 2023.

The council says priority is given to children with the most severe needs and those who have been waiting the longest.

Councillor Sam Smith (Con), the cabinet member for Education and Special Educational Needs, told the meeting: “There has been improvement with 28 per cent of plans completed on time, which is a good increase on the four per cent baseline.

“But as I’ve said before, it’s not good enough if you’re still in the 72 per cent.

“We are aiming for 55 per cent within time by end of year, and still want to get to 100 per cent.”

Nottinghamshire County Council has hired five staff to liaise with families who are waiting for EHCPs.

Cllr Smith said navigating the process “can be like swimming in muddy waters, and getting the right support can be difficult”.

He said the new staff, who started in January, were making it easier for families to get help.

The council has recently met with the Department of Education and NHS England, who confirmed they were making progress in improving ECHP delivery.

The meeting was told there was growing demand for ECHPs was nationally, partly due to better diagnosis of SEND amongst girls and young women.

The county council will meet Ofsted and the CQC in October or November to check whether it is on track in its improvements.

A full re-inspection is likely to take place in 2026.

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