Requests for education, health and care assessments for children have more than doubled across Trafford

By Alice Richardson

The number of children applying for education, health and care assessments in Trafford has more than doubled in the past five years.

The number of applications for Education Health and Care assessments (EHCNAs) has risen by 57pc, going from 1,400 statements and plans in 2014 to over 2,200 in 2021.

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An Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) is a legal document that describes a child or young person’s special educational, health and social care needs, explains the extra help that will be given to meet those needs and how that help will support the child or young person to achieve what they want to in their life.

Local authorities are in charge of issuing and managing EHCP’s for children within their areas.

According to a Trafford council Children and Young People’s Scrutiny Committee report, the number of applicants for Education, Healthcare and Care Plan (ECHP) needs assessments has also gone up by more than 30pc.

The report read: “Trafford has experienced a sharp increase in the demands for Education Health and Care assessments (EHCNA). Over the last five years, demand for these services has risen 57pc from 1400 statements and plans in 2014 to being responsible for over 2200 now.

“Similarly, requests for EHC Needs Assessments have also increased by over 30pc. We recognise that this is a national picture but understanding the local drivers behind this increasing need has been an important focus for the Local Authority.”

The figures emerged as part of a Special Educational Needs peer review in Trafford, commissioned by the council itself and conducted by Local Government Association.

(PA)

After a long period of lengthy waiting lists for needs assessments, prior to March 2020 waiting lists had begun to reduce, thanks to new approaches being adopted by the local authority.

But, according to the report, the pandemic has affected progress in reducing waiting times.

Before the pandemic, Trafford council’s children’s services were placed into special measures by educational watchdog Ofsted.

Since then inspectors have carried out monitoring visits to track progress of the authority and brought in outside experts to lend further support through the process.

In July this year, their most recent virtual inspection found a ‘significant’ amount of work still needs to be done to improve the ‘inadequate’ services in Trafford.

Things have dramatically improved since bosses were given a dressing down by Ofsted in 2019, but inspectors said there is still ‘a long way to go’.

The inspection was based on a virtual visit between February and May 2021 and found there was a lack of focus on ‘children’s experiences’, which led to some being unexpectedly rushed into care in emergency situations.

They added other children had seen delays in getting the help they need – and that some care leavers were not happy about their experiences.

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At the time, a spokesperson for the council said: “In particular, the report recognises that children referred for social work support have their needs considered and responded to in a timely way by a well-organised first response service.

“Inspectors also noted the clear plans that our senior management has put in place to make a difference to children and families.

“However, we are not complacent and we recognise there are still areas where we need to improve.

“We remain absolutely committed to improving the lives of children and families in our borough and we continue to make sure their needs are at the centre of all we do.”

Following this and previous inspections, as well as this latest Local Government Association peer review, the council has made it a priority to place “the voice of children, young people and their families at the heart of all [they] do.”


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