BCP Council has apologised for failing to meet its statutory requirement to issue plans for children with additional needs.

A report published last week showed that since November, no education, health and care plans (EHCPs) were issued within the 20-week timeframe required.

There is a backlog of 397 cases, with an average timeframe of 44.5 weeks for issuing the plans. This means the council is the fifth lowest-performing local authority in the country in this area. 

The report recommended the council cabinet approve a one-off investment of more than £780,000 from a specific earmarked reserve to clear the backlog.

Cllr Richard Burton, portfolio holder for children and young people, said the safety and support for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) is a priority for the council.

He said finding ways to make improvements in issuing EHCPs is ‘at the top of my priority list’.

“We are committed to making sure that our service meets their needs,” Cllr Burton said.

“It is with regret that despite the efforts through our improvement programme this work has failed to tackle one of the most important areas that matter to children accessing the support they need and for that we wholeheartedly apologise.”

Director of children’s services Cathi Hadley said the council is taking immediate action to tackle the problems highlighted by the report, and outlined how this was being addressed.

“We know our work to improve Education, Health and Care Needs Assessment and Plans (EHCPs) needs to urgently pick up pace and we are taking immediate action to address this,” Ms Hadley said.

“We have set out urgent plans to address the issue of staff shortages by proposing to recruit an additional six educational psychologists, four caseworkers, two support officers and one team manager.

“A restructure of the SEND service is also underway so that we can put the right level of resource and support in the right place to deal with the backlog and increase in EHCPs.

“We are taking steps now to prevent further impact on children and families and apologise for the lack of progress.”

The report will go before cabinet at the end of September for decision.