Suffolk SEND Parents Frustrated as Care Plan Deadlines Not Met
BURY ST EDMUNDS
By Aleksandra Cupriak
Parents of children with special educational needs and disabilities in Suffolk are voicing their frustration at continued care plan delivery failures.
The government has been urged to intervene after it was revealed that the turnaround of Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) by Suffolk County Council within the statutory 20-week period has fallen to 0%.
SEND Parents have recently called for the council to make changes during the peaceful protests at both West Suffolk House in Bury St Edmunds and the Cornhill in Ipswich.
The average wait time for an education, health and care plan in Suffolk is almost nine months, while nationally, 50.7% of new plans were issued within 20 weeks in 2022 – with parents frustrated at the waiting times.
Ellen Kirkby, the mum of Joe who is autistic and has just finished his GCSEs at SET Ixworth, said that the family struggled to get his EHCPs annual review, an important document as her son is preparing to change schools to study at sixth form.
Mrs Kirkby said: "Joe is in a transition year, so the documents were supposed to be completed by March 30. He needs them to go to the new school.
"We're lucky he's got a place at that sixth form regardless, but it takes the council forever to write the review.
"We received a draft of it in March, but it had someone else’s name on it and sentences that didn't even make any sense.
"I asked them to correct it and I haven’t heard nothing since."
A spokesperson for Suffolk County Council said that the delay in issuing the document is linked to the increase in the number of assessments needed and to the national shortage of educational psychologists required to complete them.
They added: "We know these delays are disappointing for families, and we are doing all we can to address this, including working with universities to attract new trainees, and using private psychologists.
"Authorities across the country face a similar challenge. "We continue to dedicate extra resource to improving our delivery of SEND services. This remains our number one priority.
"We recognise that some families face frustrations with the way we do things, and that isn’t good enough.
"The delivery of SEND provision is complex, involves lots of other agencies such as health and schools, and sits within a broken national system, but we are determined to continue to deliver effective change in what we do, with our focus on better outcomes for children and young people."
More than £78,000 was paid out to families making educational complaints in Suffolk in 2022/23, with the majority of cases relating to special educational needs provision.
Jack Abbott, Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Ipswich, said: "It is clear that Suffolk County Council needs significant help to turn this situation around.
"SEND improvements have been promised for seven years now, but the lived experiences for many families are getting worse, not better.
"I was really pleased to play my part in creating more than 800 new specialist school places, but, as I warned at the time, this was never meant to be a case of ‘job done’ or a magic bullet that would fix all the problems with the system.
"There had to be a constant stream of progress, but it is clear that, because the issues have become so wide-ranging and deep rooted, the Government must now step in.
"The Government and MPs in Suffolk have a choice. They either intervene and provide Suffolk with the resources and expertise it needs, or they let this crisis continue, harming many more children and their families in the process."