Agenda item


To show the position with regard to EHCP timeliness at the end of August 2023, receive data on and better understand the part the NHS plays in the EHCP process, review the assumptions underpinning targets and timescales in the Council’s second phase recovery plan, and receive the external consultancy’s assessment of the delivery plan.



Clare Curran, Cabinet Member for Children and Families, Lifelong Learning

Rachael Wardell, Executive Director – Children, Families and Learning

Liz Mills, Director – Education and Lifelong Learning

Tracey Sanders, Assistant Director – Inclusion & Additional Needs SW

Harriet Derrett-Smith, Associate Director – Children’s Commissioning

Leanne Henderson, Family Voice Surrey Participation Manager – remote

Key points made in the discussion:


  1. The Family Voice Surrey Participation Manager noted that the effects of improvements would take time to realise but expressed support for the increase in Educational Psychologists (EP) at the Council. She welcomed the extension of the acceptance of private EP assessments.


  1. A Member noted that the forecast on timeliness showed large increases in 2024 and asked about the service’s commitment and potential obstacles. The Cabinet Member for Children and Families said that the recovery plan was based on detailed planning and was confident in this plan being achievable. The Cabinet Member noted that potential risks could be a significant increase of requests for new plans or significant reductions in the number of staff. The Cabinet Member stressed that responses from partners such as schools were also vital to the plan’s success. The Member requested that if any negative impacts occurred, the Chair of the Committee be informed immediately. The Cabinet Member emphasised that the plan was being monitored closely and was ready to respond to a changing landscape.


  1. A Member asked if the projected model of EP assessment timeliness was accurate. The Executive Director for Children, Families and Learning noted that the projected model was accurate, improvement would appear to surge, and visibility of performance would be good.


  1. A Member asked about support for early intervention and asked for a breakdown of the budget allocation for providing support to schools, health partners and transport and how much needed to be carried into the next year. The Cabinet Member for Children and Families noted that health partners and schools did not receive funding from the Council for extra support. The Assistant Director for Inclusion & Additional Needs SW noted that of the £15 million funding, 40% was earmarked for Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) case officers, 30% for EP contracts and enhanced early intervention support in 2023. For 2024-2025, 30% was for SEND case officers and 2025-2026, 45% was for EP contracts and 25% for early intervention. This would be monitored and was subject to change.


  1. A Member asked what changes parents could expect over the next few months due to the plan. The Director for Education and Lifelong Learning answered that specialist teachers for inclusive practice would target work for children currently on the waiting list. They were supported through enhanced funding that schools could access for support for SEND plans. Schools receiving specialist teachers had been targeted based on the level of need. The Director confirmed that this was in place currently.


  1. The Chair asked if the plan addressed the backlog of children needing EPs. The Director for Education and Lifelong Learning answered that the team targeted children with higher levels of needs and requests.  The Chair queried if every child who had experienced an EHCP delay was getting the support they needed. The Director answered affirmative.


  1. The Cabinet Member for Children and Families noted that the Safety Valve Agreement with the Department of Education (DfE) was ongoing and as the number of children with Education Health & Care Plans (EHCPs) increased, this put stress on the system. This was being monitored closely by the DfE quarterly. Home to school travel assistance increases could also increase expenditure.


  1. A Member asked what the median number of projected EHCP’s was and the work needed to address it. The Director for Education and Lifelong Learning noted that a growth was factored in, and plan requests had dropped in the past year. The Funding allocated to the plan would allow for tackling the backlog and would be monitored over a three-year period.


  1. The Executive Director for Children, Families and Learning noted some external factors that were outside the remit of the Committee such as school resources and expectations from central government on meeting children and family’s needs and there was more change forecasted in future years. The Chair noted that the plan had a provision for decreasing EHCP requests by 20% and expressed interest in seeing this being achieved in Surrey. The Executive Director noted that focus and intention of the service was on early intervention. The Chair stated that schools were finding funding challenging.


  1. A Member noted that parents would find 78% EHCP timeliness delivery in a years time low, and that schools needed specialist teachers to meet children’s needs as identified in the plans.  The Member asked how the Committee could be sure that health partners such as MindWorks, the emotional wellbeing and mental health support service for children, had the capacity to achieve the Council’s plans? Further to this, how could the Council attract more EPs to work in Surrey. The Associate Director for Children’s Commissioning noted that there were two NHS Integrated Care Boards that support children’s mental health and wellbeing who had recently received additional funding to address the statutory elements of children’s needs. Modelling would help make delivery clearer. Building in business support for MindWorks partners to be able to track a child’s EHCP timeliness journey would improve delivery and meet the needs of children.


  1. The Chair asked the Associate Director to clarify if children’s communities’ health Service budget would be diverted to other services. The Associate Director noted that for 2024-2025 onwards, more funding would be available for additional health needs and improving delivery of services such as EP timeliness by the Council, NHS Integrated Care Boards and NHS Surrey Heartlands.  The Chair asked for the amount of additional funding allocated to EHCP process to be shared when available.  


  1. The Assistant Director for Inclusion & Additional Needs SW noted the shortage of EPs nationwide and the recruitment and retention plan employed by Surrey to combat the shortage such as pay increases and publicising roles better. A Member asked if temporary EPs were more expensive for the Council, The Associate Director answered yes.


  1. A Member asked if similar recruitment strategies for EPs such as higher pay and better publicising of roles were in place for occupational therapists and teaching assistants. The Associate Director for Children’s Commissioning answered that many strategies to recruit more EPs were being considered as well as retention strategies to not lose EPs to neighbouring counties.


  1. A Member asked how many complaints had been received about delays to EHCP timeliness and their level of severity. What the Council’s relationship with the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman was like and how many people were being missed in the level 1 and level 2 stage response time. The Assistant Director for Inclusion and Additional Needs SW answered that 71 reached stage 2 and 5 reached the Ombudsman. For 2023-2024 there was an increase 82 at stage 1 and 156 at level 2. This was in the context of over 3000 requests and were still a small percentage of requests. Between 18-21% of complaints to call centres over the last quarter were due to timeliness. As part of the recovery work, 10 case officers would be directly addressing case work. Dedicated time at call centres would ensure that families could call and get answers in the same call. Complaints would be recorded, and improvements made week on week.


  1. A Member asked how change was being embedded in the end-to-end review of the EHCP process. The Assistant Director answered that the changes were stakeholder and staff led and consultations with staff were occurring on a weekly basis and through a monthly bulletin. Performance reviews to ensure that staff were on target were also being implemented.


  1. A Member asked if the private EP assessment acceptance extension would be reviewed again. The Director for Education and Lifelong Learning answered that it would be reviewed again in time to communicate changes to families effectively.


Actions/requests for further information:

  1. The Assistant Director Inclusion and Additional Needs SW to provide a written response on the budget breakdown of the EHCP recovery plan.


  1. The Associate Director for Children’s Integrated Commissioning to provide a written response outlining (a) the scale of Health Service investment in the EHCP process and (b) data on the recruitment and retention of Occupational Therapists.


  1. The Assistant Director for Inclusion and Additional Needs SW to provide in writing the number of phone calls to the Council about overdue EHCPs and assessments.




  1. Data on how the EHCP timeliness recovery plan is performing against the targets stated in the report to the Select Committee on 2 October (EHCP Recovery Plan Figure 2, page 46) forms part of the performance overview item at each Select Committee meeting. By the first meeting of 2024, this should include the percentage of EHCP requests returned from MindWorks on time.


  1. In order to identify the quality and timeliness of communication on the subject of EHCPs, Internal Audit undertake a dip sample audit of responses to parents and schools over a period of one month.


  1. In order to ensure that parents always know how to make contact with a new SEND case officer, line managers ensure leavers have a handover meeting with their successor (or their manager if none in place) and remind leavers to set up an out of office reply that includes their date of leaving and the identity and contact details of their (interim) successor and the contact details of their manager. Staff should also be encouraged to set up out of office messages when they are absent or on holiday, containing details of who parents and schools can contact in their absence.


Supporting documents: