More than 100 children and young people with special needs across Bucks are waiting longer than the 20-week deadline for personal plans outlining the additional support they require, figures reveal.
There are currently 115 young people with special educational needs (SEND) who have faced delays as they wait for Bucks County Council to provide them with an education health and care plan (ECHP).
There are around 4,000 ECHPs in place across Bucks – which set out the additional education and health support children and young people require to meet their special needs.
During a meeting of BCC’s children’s select committee today (March 12) councillor for Aylesbury West, Steven Lambert, raised concerns frustrated parents are “pulling their hair out” as they wait for their children to be assessed before they are provided with an EHCP.
He said: “I had a particular piece of casework where a child took several months to get assessed.
“My concern is the parents were pulling their hair out, very concerned. The child came out with a diagnosis at the end of it which was very helpful and now they are getting direct support.
“At the same time the school was struggling not knowing how to handle the child, the parents were struggling, they knew there was something that needed to be done.”
Director of education at BCC, Sarah Callaghan, blamed the delays on increasing demand and population growth – with 1,000 more young people needing an EHCP over the past 12 months.
She added that BCC “did not respond swiftly enough” when national SEND policy changed in 2014 – which increased the maximum age young people can have an EHCP to 25.
However, Ms Callaghan assured members that action is being taken to identify children who need additional support earlier on in their lives in a bid to reduce the number of EHCPs required.
She said: “In numbers we have got nearly 4,000 EHCPs and in the report it tells us there are 115 that are out of that timescale.
“I totally accept that for parents where we go outside of that timescale, it does create challenges for them.
“Sometimes that may be because parents have particular placement in mind because they are familiar with the individual needs of their child and have a preference for the type of placement.
“The voice of the parent and young person is very important to the process, however it does create some challenges for us because a parent may a preference for an independent placement that is very expensive.
“Obviously we have budget pressures and increasing demand around particular needs. Autistic spectrum disorder has risen dramatically over the past few years.”