The Commission considered a report setting out the latest Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) performance update.
Summary of main points raised:
1. In response to questions from the Chair, it was clarified that:
* as at the end of July, there were 605 active EHC needs assessments in the system. 328 of these were within the 20-week timescale; however, 277 were outside of the 20-week timescale.
* managers had reviewed the balance of work within teams on new and overdue / legacy cases to ensure that from 31 July 2022, no further cases would exceed 52 weeks. The 90 overdue cases as at 31 July had now been reduced in number to 47; all 47 cases had been allocated an assessment co-ordinator with draft plans in place, with a view to plans being completed (following consultation) by the end of the calendar year. It was recognised that for as long as there were overdue cases in the system, the 20-week targets were going to be under pressure.
2. Cllr Weston welcomed the reduction in the number of overdue cases from 90 to 47. He suggested, and it was agreed that a succinct ‘snapshot’ update of EHCP performance should be submitted to each meeting of the Commission.
3. In response to questions, it was noted that officers were in ongoing communication with a wide range of other local authorities with a view to learning and applying best practice. Whilst it was acknowledged that the situation was far from resolved and further improvement was necessary, there had been a reasonably steady trajectory of improvement since 2019 in terms of the timeliness of meeting the 20 week target. Bristol’s focus was on securing improvements that would be sustained. It was noted that Portsmouth had been one of the first local authorities that had produced a clear articulation of the school-based stages of the code of practice; officers had assessed the Portsmouth approach and were developing the application of this in Bristol. As a result, considerable work was being undertaken with schools to strengthen the school-based stages of the code of practice, e.g. issuing of Ordinarily Available Provision guidance and training, as well as developing a comprehensive workforce development plan.
4. Cllr Townsend flagged the importance of the timeliness of annual reviews, noting that monitoring data on this was not included in the report. It was noted that through the SEND reporting system, the aim was to ensure that individual, child level information would be available, including reporting measures around annual reviews. Within Bristol, delegated responsibility for annual reviews had been passed, as was the case in most local authorities, to educational settings. The authority did not have the capacity to ensure officer attendance at each individual annual review, but there would be a greater focus and emphasis placed on ensuring a more robust system was in place in terms of quality assurance around annual reviews.
5. With reference to para. 6.3, Cllr Weston asked that a copy of the Council’s response to the government Green Paper - SEND Review: Right Support, Right Place, Right Time be circulated to Commission members.
6. The Chair thanked officers for the update report. On noting the above point that for as long as there were overdue cases in the system, the 20-week targets were going to be under pressure, he commented that he was also concerned about the capacity of the department to significantly reduce/eliminate the number of legacy cases, given the numbers of new cases that also needed to be dealt with. In response, it was noted that to help tackle the challenge faced, action was being taken to recruit additional assessment co-ordinators and educational psychology staff. The Chair further commented that, in his view, there was an issue for the Council more generally to consider about whether additional resources should and/or could be allocated to support SEND improvement work; whilst that was a challenge for the administration, it was, in his view, also an issue that all political groups needed to consider.
The Commission RESOLVED:
1. To note the report and the above information.
2. That a succinct ‘snapshot’ update of EHCP performance be submitted to each meeting of the Commission.