Department for Education written question – answered on 24th May 2023.
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what recent steps she has taken to simplify the Education, Health and Care Plan assessment process to reduce the time take to provide families with a timeline for a plan's completion.
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment she has made of the adequacy of the eligibility criteria for Education, Health and Care Plans; and what steps her Department is taking to ensue those criteria are interpreted and applied consistently across local authorities.
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps her Department is taking to improve training and support for local authority staff involved in the Education, Health and Care Plan process.
In the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and Alternative Provision (AP) Improvement Plan, published in March 2023, the department set out plans to reform the education, health and care (EHC) plan system. The Improvement Plan does not alter the statutory eligibility for EHC plan. The current test for eligibility for an EHC needs assessment is set out in Section 36(8) of the Children and Families Act 2014.
The SEND and AP reforms seek to make best practice common practice in how EHC plans are delivered. They include establishing a single EHC plan form and supporting processes across England, including a national requirement for the use of digital technology to improve consistency and access to information. We will also test the use of multi-agency panels to enable local authorities to make judgements based on a holistic view of the needs of the child or young person across education, health and care when deciding whether to issue an EHC plan. We are already engaging with children, young people, families, and practitioners to develop this work.
The department wants to ensure that EHC plans, where required, are issued as quickly as possible, so that the child or young person can access the support they need. In 2021 (the latest figures available), there were 93,300 requests for an EHC plan. 63,200 new EHC plans were issued, the highest number since they were introduced. 59.9% were issued within 20 weeks.
The department recognises the vital role local authority staff play in supporting families in the SEND and EHC plan system. We will consider the skills and training these staff require and, when consulting on amending the SEND Code of Practice, will propose new guidance on delivering a responsive and supportive casework service.
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