County Council announces SEND assessment cash boost

Essex County Council has announced a cash boost of almost £2.9million to help cut the backlog of children waiting to be assessed for SEND (special educational needs and disability).

The authority says the additional funding of £2.894 million will be spent on delivering “additional assistance” for the assessment of children over the next two financial years.

It comes after the county council admitted to an “extreme emergency” as it has been struggling to find enough experts to assess the children. It also comes after the backlog was revealed to be the worst in England.

The county council says the cash will be spent on a number of measures and support techniques including recruiting additional posts into the quadrant SEND Operations Team – including additional coordinators and engagement facilitators, increasing the level of support given to schools and settings, and developing a package of support for families who are waiting for an EHCNA.

Helen Lincoln, executive director for children, families and education at Essex County Council, said: “We are seizing different opportunities to improve education, health and care needs assessment wait times, and the experience of families in Essex. Our aim is to do this as quickly as possible, without compromising on the quality of the service offered to families.

“The additional assistance plan is one part of our wider improvement work and it is important we don’t make changes in isolation. We recognise there are different areas that need to be addressed across the system.

“We understand the effect that long wait times can have on families but hope the changes we are making will go some way in providing reassurance that SEND improvements remain a priority for the council.”

The funding announcement also comes after it was revealed that only one per cent of the SEND child assessments are being completed within a 20-week deadline. There are also currently more than 1,000 children in the education, health and care plan needs assessment process.

It was also previously revealed that the 20-week assessment process is already running approximately five to six months behind schedule, largely due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter