Education and Health Care Plans (EHCP) – Additional Needs and Disabilities Strategy
Following my previous update in September 2023 – Open letter from Liz Mills: Additional Needs and Disabilities (AND) Strategy update- September 2023 | Surrey Local Offer – and in line with my commitment to provide regular updates, I am writing to describe the progress we have made in the management of the Education, Health and Care needs assessment delays and how we are ensuring our annual reviews are up to date, alongside providing an update on the support we are offering to families and schools while we continue to implement our strategy.
Using the EHCP Multi-agency Recovery Plan we have in place, we are seeing green shoots in relation to progress in the three aims: reducing long waiting times, providing better support during waiting times and securing a long-term sustainable model of assessments. We are completing assessments for our most vulnerable children on time, clearing assessments that are overdue and enhancing our support offer for children at SEN support.
Progress has also been externally reviewed as part of a recent visit by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission to inspect Surrey’s Additional Needs and Disabilities partnership arrangements for supporting children and young people with additional needs. The inspection took place between 11th and 29th September 2023 and the report is due to be published in November.
Nationally, Educational Psychology Services are experiencing difficulties in recruiting Educational Psychologists (EPs) to fill vacancies which 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, 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.
The Educational Psychology service will now be able to provide double the number of assessments through the expansion of contracted agency EPs and we have already allocated and completed nearly all EP assessments that were outstanding from last year.
Children who are identified with additional vulnerabilities continue to have had their assessments completed on time and we are now ensuring assessments for children that were due in the early part of this year are allocated.
We have also extended our temporary offer of using independent EP advices as sole advice, where this meets the criteria listed on Surrey’s Local Offer,so that parents and carers can ask us to use these reports if they have commissioned a report themselves.
We have been made aware that members of the Association of Educational Psychologists (AEP) Union have voted in favour of industrial action. While this is a national issue, Surrey AEP Union members have voted for both action short of strike and strike action during the following periods;
- action short of strike, which is working only within contracted hours, is due to take place between 6 November and 15 December
- strike action (2 days) is planned for the 15 November and 13 December.
I’d like to reassure families that we are taking steps to plan mitigations and anticipate impacts to services to be minimal should the action go ahead.
If it does go ahead and any scheduled appointments are going to be affected, the relevant individuals will be contacted in order to rearrange.
The Special Educational Needs (SEN) Service have recruited a team of 28 case officers to complete needs assessments as the Educational Psychologists work through their overdue reports. The team have completed their training and are now in place to work with families entering the final stage of their needs assessment process. We are delighted by the depth of experience within this team and are confident their impact will be felt soon as we begin to reduce delays in our needs assessment process.
The quadrant SEN teams have been hard at work ensuring that the annual review actions required by the local authority are completed. As you would expect, we focused first on our most vulnerable children and are pleased to be able to report that 98% of these children and young people either have a completed annual review, or have their next annual review booked in the diary.
The next stage of this work is to apply the same process for any other children or young people who do not have an up-to-date review. To support with this work, we have a team of 6 case officers joining us to work alongside the quadrant teams. We are confident that you will see progress in this work soon, and the needs of the children and young people are responded to at the right time and in the right way through shorter waiting times.
Better support whilst waiting
Our Specialist Teachers for Inclusive Practice have played a key part in providing advice to schools so that children and families awaiting an overdue needs assessment are able to access support to better meet their needs. During their planning meeting with schools where additional vulnerabilities are identified they are signposting these pupils to the Education Psychology team for prioritisation for an assessment.
We recognise that communication with you as parents/carers, your children – and with schools – is an area in need of improvements and are currently implementing a new approach to enable more responsive and timely communication. I will share more details in the near future.
Securing a sustainable service model
Following a successful pilot of the Team around the School (TAS) model we have scaled up and broadened the TAS approach. The TAS Manager is recruiting 4 TAS Co-ordinators to increase the number of schools that can be supported from the initial 16 in the pilot to 55 over the coming year.
The Learners’ Single Point of Access (L-SPA) also increased its capacity to deliver support to schools and families utilising the TAS approach and will be supporting up to 60 schools directly over the coming year.
The impact of this work is that schools will feel increasingly able to meet needs at SEND Support as they have access to a greater range of services and support offers. In addition, the approach helps families to engage with schools through shared ‘parents as partners’ events and drop ins including parent coffee mornings hosted at TAS schools which help to strengthen partnership working between schools and parents and involve parents more actively in designing and reviewing their child’s support offer.
As I have done before, I would like to again encourage you to participate in our parent and carer forum, Family Voice Surrey (FVS). A charitable incorporated organisation, they champion 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. As a key member of our Additional Needs and Disabilities Partnership, they can support you in many ways, including by helping to ensure your feedback and views are used to help shape our services in the most appropriate way to better support Surrey children and young people. You can learn more about FVS, including how to become a member on the FVS Website.
Director of Education and Lifelong Learning, Surrey County Council