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(UK) England: 11% increase in SPED plans in one yr; many councils can't provide help

Dec 29, 2019, St Helens Star: Rising numbers of families requesting for help for children with special needs RISING numbers of families are requesting help for children with special needs, but thousands are being denied assistance, an investigation has found. Figures show that the number of initial requests for a child to be assessed for an education, health and care plan (EHCP) has risen by more than 10 per cent in just a year. And while councils are agreeing to the majority of these assessments, there has been an increase in the number of refusals. In St Helens in 2017/18 there were 220 initial requests, 160 of which were agreed to and 13 more agree at a later date and 349 in 2018/2019 with 221 agreed to and 7 at a later date. National charity leaders warned that many children are being "unfairly turned down" for EHCPs, leaving families to fight for support. Council leaders said they are concerned that authorities are in danger of being unable to meet their legal duty towards children with special educational needs and disabilities. Ministers have announced an extra £700 million [$918M US] for Send children next year and announced a review which will look at how services can be improved…. However, PA's analysis indicates that roughly seven in 10 assessment requests are agreed, and around a quarter are refused. … "Many have nowhere left to turn and no option but to give up." She added: "Even when EHC plans are granted, some families face an agonising wait for support to arrive and helplessly watch their child endure a daily struggle to get by."… "The EHCPs are legal documents, they're quite complex and hard to understand. "You can read it and think 'that sounds alright'. It's only when you get legal advice that you realise it doesn't meet the needs." Official figures show there are currently 354,000 pupils in England with EHCPs, up 11 per cent on 2018. Cllr Judith Blake, chair of the Local Government Association's children and young people board, said: "These findings support our long-term concern that councils are in danger of being unable to meet their statutory duties for children with special educational needs. "While we were pleased the Government has provided an additional £700 million for children with special educational needs next year, without sustainable long-term funding the situation will get worse as the number of children who need support continues to increase." Jolanta Lasota, chief executive of Ambitious about Autism, said: "It can often take a long time to secure an assessment for an EHC plan and even then, the outcome is not guaranteed - with many children turned down or offered support that doesn't meet their needs…. Jane Harris, director of external affairs at the National Autistic Society, said "These findings reinforce what the families of autistic children have been telling our charity. Autistic children are being held back by a broken special educational needs system. Families can often only get the support their children need through expensive and stressful legal action."


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