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Ombudsman upholds 80% of complaints about Education and Health Care Plans

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman is upholding about 80% of complaints it investigates about Education and Health Care Plans (EHCPs), it has been revealed.

The Ombudsman, Michael King, told this week’s SEN Law Conference that the organisation had now investigated nearly 140 cases in detail.

He said: “We know many authorities are struggling to meet the April deadline for transferring Statements, and I want to stress they need to ensure provision remains in place if transfers to EHC Plans have not occurred by the deadline.

“In the cases that come to us, we are seeing worrying patterns of delay, inadequate evidence gathering and poor administration and this is having a significant impact on the children and families the new plans were designed to help.

“While we recognise the increasing pressure on Children’s Services departments, we will continue to make decisions based on the law, guidance and rights and not on diminishing budgets.”

The Ombudsman said it had seen delays in some cases of up to 90 weeks in the transfer of children with existing Statements of SEN.

Other problems regularly seen by investigators included:

  • Failing to involve parents and young people properly in the decision-making process
  • Not gathering sufficient evidence to inform decisions, and
  • A lack of proper forward planning when young people move between key educational stages.

A report published by the LGO last October gave best practice guidance to local authorities. It also offered councillors and scrutiny chairs a number of questions they can ask of their own authorities to ensure they offer children and young people with Special Educational Needs the best possible start.

The Ombudsman’s focus report, ‘Education, Health and Care Plans: our first 100 investigations’, can be downloaded from the Ombudsman’s website.

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