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(UK) Essex: Only ONE % of children assessed for special needs within time limit

May 16, 2024, Maldon Standard: Ofsted boss criticises Essex's special educational needs record

E. England

A SENIOR Ofsted official has said “too many young people are being let down” by Essex County Council's failure to assess them for an educational health care plan in good time.

In Essex just one per cent of children receive an assessment for an educational health care plan (EHCP) within the legal time limit of 20 weeks – the worst rate in the country.

Requests for assessments, meanwhile, have increased by 143 per cent between 2015-16 and 2022-23, with almost 4,000 requests made between 2022 and 2023.

Mike Sheridan, Ofsted's regional director for the East of England, said: "I'm really disappointed to say there are too many local areas where there are systemic and widespread failures.

“Quite simply, it's just not good enough and too many young people are being let down.”

Tony Ball, Essex County Council councillor responsible for education excellence, lifelong learning and employability, says the authority recognises the impact long wait times have on children and their families.

“We would like to reassure them that urgent efforts to improve the timeframes for assessments are ongoing," he said.

“Unfortunately, there are currently several overlapping factors affecting performance.

“The recruitment and retention of Educational Psychologists is an issue across the UK, as recognised in the Department for Education’s SEND improvement plan.

"A significant rise in Education, Health and Care plan requests since the pandemic and need for special school places is also putting pressure on the capacity of our SEND teams."

One Colchester mum who has been left frustrated with the time it takes for an assessment to be carried out is Laura Wingar.

At the time of speaking to the Gazette back in March, her son Freddie had been waiting since August 1, 2023 for an assessment.

She said: “I’m utterly disgusted with our local authority - they are failing our children’s physical and mental wellbeing."

The issue was discussed at an Essex County Council meeting this week but parents were left frustrated after only one of 19 submitted questions on the subject was answered. . . .


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