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(UK) Derbyshire: 600 special ed plans delayed; 'significant increase' in demand

Sept 29, 2023, BBC News: Mum says autistic twins unable to start school after reports delayed

E. Midlands

A mother says she has been forced to keep her autistic twins out of school due to delays in assessing their needs.
Kimberley says her four-year-old sons, Noah and Riley, are non-verbal and would be unable to cope in mainstream education.
But the assessments of their needs arrived too late for them to be offered places at a special school.

Derbyshire County Council has admitted a large number of families faced similar delays, and apologised.

The twins' Educational Health Care Plans (EHCP) have now been completed and rated at level five, which means they need the highest level of support, with at least one-to-one care and two-to-one support in some situations.

Mum-of-five, Kimberley, who has another child with less severe autism attending a mainstream school, said: "You only have to spend five minutes with my boys to know they'd never cope in a mainstream school.

"They need a lot of nurture, a lot of understanding, and a lot of time.

"What I'm asking for is no different to what I've asked for for my other three children, which is that they go to school and have an education."

Councils are legally obliged to complete ECHPs within 20 weeks and provide the recommended level of support to children with special educational needs.

Chrissa Wadlow, who founded Derby-based Sunshine Support to help families like Kimberley's, said she had 600 open cases where EHCPs had been delayed or unfulfilled and they had written letters to councils to threaten them with legal action in the High Court.

"I don't understand how so many local authorities are getting away with it," she said.

"The letters are basically a warning to the council and that's something we're producing a lot of at the moment, tens in just the last few weeks. "So far we've had 100 per cent success, but it shouldn't get to that point because they should just do the right thing anyway."

A Derbyshire County Council spokeswoman said demand for places in its special schools was high and there had also been a "significant increase" in requests for EHCPs across the country.

This had an impact on the authority's ability to complete the final reports in the 20-week deadline, she said.

She added: "We are extremely sorry for any children, families and schools who are being negatively affected and we are working extremely hard to improve our performance.

"Derbyshire County Council has invested £1m [$1.2M] to increase capacity within our Educational Psychology and SEND teams in order to address these challenges as well as reviewing and restructuring its services to manage the demand in the future "In addition, we have also introduced better systems to track cases, improved our partnership working with health services and schools and we're continuing to work hard to improve our communication processes, which we acknowledge have not been good enough. "We are working with the special schools to increase the places available "Where there are delays in identifying a special school place for a child we will work with the family and the existing schools or provision to look at what alternatives can be provided."

Kimberley has said her sons Noah and Riley, four, would not cope in mainstream education


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