BCP Council’s children’s services SEND service is the fifth lowest performing in the country, according to a damning report published this week.

All of the plans issued by the council since November to assist children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities have failed to hit the specified deadline of 20 weeks.

The council is ‘failing to meet its statutory duties’, creating a backlog of cases that are out of time and running beyond the deadline.

The local authority has a statutory requirement to issue education, health and care plans (EHCPs) within this deadline.

EHCPs are for children and young people aged up to 25 who need more assistance than is available through special educational needs support.

The council is responsible for creating the EHCPs, with drafts sent to parents or cares of a child, with the family given 15 days to comment on the document.

This process is meant to take a maximum of 20 weeks from the date of a request to the final delivery.

Requests can be made by a parent or a young person themselves, if they are aged between 16 and 25, or at the request of a doctor, health visitor or teacher.

More than £780,000 is needed to address the backlog, with some cases in the system for more than a year.

As reported by the Daily Echo, the council was failing to meet this deadline in 65 per cent of cases in October of last year.

However, a council report has shown that since November, no ECHPs were issued within this timeframe.

In fact, it currently takes an average of 44.5 weeks, with a backlog of around 397 cases, 20 of which were delayed by more than 50 weeks.

It has been recommended that the council cabinet approves a one-off investment of £784,000 to manage this and accelerate timeliness. This money will come from a specific earmarked reserve.

A number of reasons for the council’s poor performance were listed, including instability in staffing, high demand on the service and non-robust processes.

Nationally, the average national timeliness for the plans is 50.9 per cent.

BCP Council performance was 91.3 per cent as recently as 2019, dropping to 21.9 per cent in 2020, 31.2 per cent in 2021 and just 7.3 per cent in 2022.

The Department for Education has asked the council to prepare projections of increased performance as a part of a 20-week recovery plan.

Failure to meet the recovery plan “has a significant impact on children and young people as they are not able to access the support they need in a timely way.”

The report provides an outline of this plan, and what the funds will be spent on.

It notes that reducing the backlog ‘at pace’ may place more pressure on commissioning, but it could mean that the needs of more children and young people could be met in ‘mainstream settings’.

The council has also recently been invited to join the Safety Valve Programme, which holds local authorities to account for delivery of reforms to high needs systems.

The proposed project will work alongside Delivery Better Values projects, which the council successfully bid for £1million.