Only three-quarters of the care plans for disabled children in Doncaster ready in time

Around three-quarters of the Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP) approved in Doncaster were processed on time last year, with some children waiting more than five months for adequate support.

Wednesday, 2nd June 2021, 9:45 am
Updated Wednesday, 2nd June 2021, 9:45 am

The plans allow families to access tailored assistance for children and young people with disabilities and special educational needs, but delays in creating them mean youngsters are struggling to access vital help, disability charity Scope says.

By law, councils have 20 weeks from the date of a request being made to craft a plan.

But Department for Education statistics show just 74 per cent of the EHCPs created in Doncaster last year were processed within that time frame.

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The stress and pressures affects not only the children but the whole family
The stress and pressures affects not only the children but the whole family

That is a drop from 2019, when 86 per cent were created on time.

The proportion of plans issued within 20 weeks has dropped nationally and is down to 58 per cent from 60 per cent last year.

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The figures exclude cases where exceptions to the normal timescale applied – including any impacted by changes to council services in order to reduce the spread of Covid-19 between May 1 and September 25 last year, when the laws were temporarily relaxed.

Classed as legal documents, EHCPs can only be approved where families have already exhausted all support options available in schools and other educational settings and require further help.

Once in place, they allow youngsters to receive funded support tailored to their specific needs, from individual classroom assistance to speech and language therapy.

But Scope's Louise Rubin said families are struggling to access support, with delays having a “massive impact” on disabled children.

She said: “Parents have told us about the stresses of applying for an EHCP as it can be a confusing and complex process and delays can make this worse.

“While families wait for an EHCP, the child will be missing out on the appropriate education, but also health and social care support.

“Their needs aren't being met. This can have a negative effect on their development, wellbeing and increase feelings of isolation.

“This stress and pressures affects not only the children but the whole family.”

The figures also show Doncaster council received 398 new requests for EHCPs last year, down from 409 in 2019, and approved 273 new plans.

In January, more than 430,000 children and young people in England had EHCPs in place, with 2,245 of them in Doncaster.

Leanne Hornsby, Assistant Director of Education, said: "While circumstances are still challenging and Doncaster’s performance did dip in Quarter 3, 2020 it has consistently been above the national average throughout 2021. The Local Authority feedback to the DFE on a monthly basis about 20 week performance and the most recent return for April 2021 (Wave 7) shows Doncaster finalised 90.63 per cent of EHCPs within the statutory 20 weeks as opposed to a national average of 70 per cent.”

A Department for Education spokesman said it is reassuring that support via EHCPs has continued throughout the pandemic, adding that it is providing £1.7 billion to help those who have been most impacted by tie out of the classroom, on top of £8 billion in high needs funding.

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Liam Hoden, editor.