Please find below the FVS response to an open letter to parent carers from Liz Mills, Director of Education and Lifelong Learning, regarding Education Health and Care Needs Assessment delays.
The Education, Health and Care Needs assessment (EHCNA) process from start to finish should take no more than 20 weeks, but this hasn’t been the case for many families. We know that this has been causing considerable distress for parent carers and their families over a long period of time and so it is encouraging to know that Liz Mills and Surrey County Council (SCC) have offered a sincere and wholehearted apology to all those affected.
Despite the multi agency recovery plan being in place for almost a year, with timeliness increasing by 14% in the last quarter, it hasn’t had the impact needed. FVS have been continuing to raise the concerns of parent carers throughout our work with SCC. Therefore, FVS are pleased to hear that SCC put forward, and Cabinet agreed to, procuring additional Educational Psychology service capacity and Special Educational Needs service capacity up to the value of £15m over 3 years between 2023/24 and 2026/27.
We look forward to continuing our work with SCC, as a key partner within the Additional Needs and Disabilities Partnership, ensuring the lived experience and voice of parent carers is heard to help shape services. We are also pleased to have been invited to be part of the ‘End to End’ review of the EHCP Needs Assessment Process. This will involve a review of policy, procedure and roles and we will keep you updated as the review progresses. We would like to assure FVS members that we will continue to ensure that your views are heard at these meetings.
We are grateful that Liz has encouraged parent carers to join FVS. For those who are new to FVS, we are the official parent carer forum for Surrey. Our role is to gather and represent the parent carer views in meetings concerning implementation of SEND legislation and planning and delivery of SEND services, working with representatives from the local authority, local schools, and health. We also build strong relationships with other Surrey-based organisations working in different ways to support children and young people with additional needs. Together we can raise the voice of parent carers to achieve the best for children and young people with additional needs in Surrey. Together we are stronger. If you would like to share your experience with us, you can do so by emailing us at email@example.com
As a parent carer forum, we are unable to advocate for individuals. For individual advice and support please contact SEND Advice Surrey. They are Surrey’s Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities information, advice and support (SENDIAS) service. They provide information, advice and support to parents, carers and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) aged 0 to 25 years.
The information, advice and support provided is impartial, confidential, free and at arm’s length to the Council. They will listen to your concerns and discuss any issues in confidence.
They aim to provide information, advice and support to empower parents, carers and young people to:
- fully participate in discussions and make informed decisions
- express their views and wishes about education and future aspirations
- promote independence and self-advocacy
- develop positive relationships with nurseries, preschools, schools, colleges, universities, the Council and supported services to achieve positive outcomes.
- You can visit their website: http://www.sendadvicesurrey.org or get in touch with them by email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01737 737300.
Open letter from Liz Mills: EHCNA delays
Dear parents and carers
I would first like to sincerely and wholeheartedly apologise on behalf of Surrey County Council if your child is waiting longer than anticipated for their Education Health and Care Needs assessment (EHCNA) to be completed. Despite our best efforts, timescales for assessments and annual reviews are not where they need to be.
A multi-agency recovery plan has been in place since September 2022, but we know we need to get the assessment process moving quicker, clear applications that are overdue and ensure you have the confidence that your child will be supported. We are determined to do this, and the Leader of Surrey County Council put this issue at the heart of his speech to Full Council last week and set out the Council’s commitment to improving the situation locally. You can listen here:
We are enhancing our recovery plans
We feel confident that our existing recovery plan will, in the long term, and with the right support from partners in our health services, ensure every child is assessed in a timely way. However, we know the issue is significantly impacting you and your family now, so we are taking further action to enhance our short-term response.
A Cabinet report has just been published Agenda Document for Cabinet, 25/07/2023 14:00 (surreycc.gov.uk) addressing the issues within our SEN service (pages 351 onwards), which includes a request for more funding. This request will be considered at the next Surrey County Council Cabinet meeting on 25 July.
We also took another paper to the Surrey County Council Select Committee on this important issue: Report (surreycc.gov.uk)
I want you to know that we are working hard behind the scenes, and I hope that this information will give you some assurance that we don’t take our responsibilities lightly and are absolutely determined to get children and young people the support they need as quickly as possible. Following the Cabinet meeting at the end of the month, we will provide you with a detailed update on our enhanced plans.
The assessment process
We know the assessment process can be complex to navigate, so we have summarised it below to ensure you know the next steps for your family.
As you know, the first stage of the process is for applications to be reviewed and then a decision is made on whether to complete a full assessment. Following this first stage, we felt it necessary to complete a full assessment for your child.
Once this decision has been made, the service then requests information and reports from relevant professionals. Not all reports are required in order to progress the needs assessment, but an Educational Psychologist view is required in line with the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) code of practice, which is a statutory document.
Nationally, Educational Psychology Services are experiencing difficulties in recruiting educational psychologists (EPs) to fill vacancies and this is causing a delay to assessments. In Surrey the Educational Psychology Service have taken a number of actions to address this including prioritising statutory assessment work over other work, advertising both locally and nationally to fill positions, extending our use of locum and associate EPs and also commissioning an external provider to support us with this work.
Once the EP work is complete, a report is submitted to the next available governance board. Should the decision at the governance board be that your child’s needs meet the criteria for an Education Health and Care plan (EHCP) to be issued, a plan will then be drafted using the professional reports submitted by the case officer and sent to you for your consideration and feedback.
Family Voice Surrey
I would also like to take this opportunity to make you aware of our parent and carer forum, Family Voice Surrey (FVS). It is a charitable incorporated organisation that champions the needs and rights of families in Surrey with children or young adults up to the age of 25 who have additional needs and disabilities. They can support you in many ways, including sharing parent and carer views with us. As a key member of our Additional Needs and Disabilities Partnership they help to ensure we are shaping our services in the most appropriate way. You can learn more about FVS, including how to become a member here: Family Voice Surrey website (familyvoicesurrey.org)
I encourage you to participate with Family Voice Surrey because I know that by listening to the experiences of families, we can find a way forward to better support our children and young people.
Director of Education and Lifelong Learning, Surrey County Council
For more information, please see:
- Education, Health and Care Needs Assessments: Parent Carers July 2023
- Virtual Psychological Advice for Education Health and Care Needs Assessments (EHCNA)
- EHC information for parents