Special Educational Needs

Department for Education written question – answered at on 14 March 2024.

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Photo of James Morris James Morris Assistant Whip

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps her Department is taking to support local authorities to reduce the time taken to process special educational needs and disabilities applications for education, health and care plans.

Photo of David Johnston David Johnston The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

The department wants to ensure that education, health and care (EHC) plan applications are processed promptly and, where required, plans are issued as quickly as possible so that children and young people can access the support they need. In March 2023 the government set out its plans to reform and improve the special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) system through its SEND and Alternative Provision (AP) Improvement Plan. The SEND and AP Improvement Plan commits to establishing a single national system that delivers for every child and young person with SEND so that they enjoy their childhood, achieve good outcomes, and are well prepared for adulthood and employment.

As part of these reforms, the department is currently testing measures to deliver a nationally consistent EHC plan system to improve the quality and speed with which support is put in place. The department is also considering the skills and training which local authority caseworker teams require and is offering some short-term legal training to local authority caseworker teams.

Where local authorities are failing to deliver consistent outcomes for children and young people with SEND, we work with them using a range of improvement programmes and SEND specialist advisors to address weaknesses.

The department is monitoring Sandwell’s EHC plan performance and is offering specialist support through a specialist SEND Advisor. Following the Ofsted and CQC visit in July 2023, three areas for improvement were identified. The local area has published its Sandwell Local Area Partnership Inclusion (SEND and AP) Plan 2023/2026 and progress on improvement will be continuously monitored by the department and NHS England.

Following the Ofsted and CQC re-visit to Dudley in February 2022, an Accelerated Progress Plan (APP) was put in place to address six areas of weakness. EHC plan timeliness was not identified as an area of weakness, although through the APP, the department, along with a specialist SEND Advisor and NHS England, works closely with the local area to ensure they are supported in addressing issues and driving improvements to services, including continuous improvement in EHC plan timeliness.

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