Surrey schools are spending substantial sums – up to £40,000 – to support children with additional needs because of prolonged delays in assessments from Surrey County Council.
These delays have impacted school budgets and children’s wellbeing, with the council blaming a shortage of educational psychologists.
Only 26 per cent of required education, health and care plans (EHCPs) are now completed within the mandated 20 weeks, a drop in performance over the past 18 months. The county ranks 128th out of 152 authorities for EHCP timeliness.
A parent told a meeting of the county council’s children, families, lifelong learning and culture select committee in July that parents felt they were in a “perpetual fight” to get things done.
The impact is also felt by schools, with councillors told one had shelled out £40,000 without reimbursement supporting one student who had been waiting 55 weeks for an EHCP.
The council acknowledged the problem, expressing regret and recognising the distress caused.
Additional funding from the Department for Education has been received, but this was not allocated for the time that children were waiting for plans to be completed.
For several years Surrey has been overspending on dedicated funding received from government for schools funding, and supplementing government money through council budgets.
Councils, including Surrey, are now grappling with mounting debts to sustain support.
By Emily Coady Stemp, Local Democracy Reporter