August 2018

Last year, IPSEA responded to a call for evidence by the London Assembly into SEND provision in London, providing a written response and attending to give oral evidence to the committee. Using the information gathered from our services, IPSEA stated that: 

  • Children, young people and parents in London face particular difficulties with cross-borough working, as many pupils attend school in one area and live in another. This can present difficulties in establishing who is responsible for supporting a child or young person with SEND, and also in obtaining home-to-school transport.
  • We highlighted that we had been contacted by significant numbers of parents in greater London who were having problems with local authorities not complying with their obligations under the Children and Families Act 2014; transport; and EHC plans not being finalised in time for transfers to new schools.
  • We felt that local authorities who were managing their obligations well could share best practice, and recommended that the London Assembly could have a role in encouraging consistent processes across local authorities.

The London Assembly has now published their report, which makes a number of positive recommendations, including that:

  • The Mayor should convene a pan-London SEND network to support the closer working of health, education and local authority leads.
  • The Mayor should assess the viability of supporting the establishment of a dedicated centre for training SENCOs.
  • The Mayor should promote supported internship opportunities both within the GLA and through his business networks. 

However, we have concerns around some of the conclusions and recommendations. 

They recommend allowing local authorities full flexibility to transfer funding between the schools and high needs block of the dedicated schools grant. We are concerned this could result in money being transferred out of the high needs block for funding general schooling. 

They also referred to a statement by Ofsted that “parents are seeing an EHCP as a ‘golden ticket’ to better outcomes [so] many more are applying for an EHCP even if their child’s need might not require it”; they then go on to discuss an increase in EHC plans. This indicates that they consider the increase in EHCPs to be as a result of children and young people who do not need plans asking for them, which is not the case. The percentage of pupils with EHC plans has remained consistent (2.7%-2.8% of the school/college population over the last 6 years), so although there has been an increase in applications for assessment, this has not translated into a larger proportion of children or young people in fact being issued plans. An increase in the overall number of plans as opposed to Statements is likely to be accounted for by the fact that Statements only went up to age 19, whereas EHCPs continue until 25. 

Finally, the Assembly discusses difficulties with transitions to adult services in social care, and gives the explanation that “the threshold to receive support is much higher than that required in an EHCP”. This is not correct. Social care services set out in an EHC plan are derived from children’s or adult’s entitlements under social care law; there is no difference in the legal tests applied for a young person with an EHC plan aged 23, and an adult aged 26.