Newham named as the worst council for supporting children with complex special needs

Government data puts Newham at the bottom of the table . Pic: Newham Council

Government data puts Newham at the bottom of the table . Pic: Newham Council - Credit: Archant

Newham has been ranked the worst council in England at supporting children with the most complex special needs.

Data from the Department for Education puts Newham bottom of a table of 149 local authorities for the number of education, health and care plans (EHCPs) completed within the government’s target time of 20 weeks.

An EHCP describes what special needs a child has and the help they should get to meet them.

Of the 316 new EHCPs issued in Newham in 2017 just 1.4 per cent were completed within the 20 week time scale.

This compares to Northumberland Council which completed 100pc of 929 EHCPs issued in 2017.

The mother of an autistic boy who goes to school in Manor Park who asked not to be named said the battle to get her son an EHCP was ruining his future.

“It’s a nightmare. Every second of my life I spend fighting. I really want it sorted. At least I would know he’s being looked after and cared for. But the council hasn’t made my life any easier,” she said.

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She accused the council of dragging its feet in spite of his teachers and a clinical psychologist backing her application.

“The process of applying for a plan works against parents. [The EHCP] is like a lifeline but [the council] refuse to give it to you,” she said.

She accused Newham of deliberately putting obstacles in the way of parents and scaring them into thinking their children could be taken away if they kick up a fuss.

A second mum, whose six-year-old son also has autism, instructed her solicitor to write to the council demanding it speed up completion of his care plan.

The 46-year-old, who asked not to be named, and her husband remortgaged their home so they could afford to pay for extra support for their child while they waited for an EHCP.

“[The council] don’t have any compassion. It’s only about the money. [An EHCP] is the best chance of getting what my son has a right to,” she said.

Cllr Julianne Marriott, cabinet member for education, said: “Newham Council is aware of our poor performance and we have made fixing it a priority.

“Despite the enormous financial pressures imposed on council budgets by government cuts, and increasing demands on SEN provision, Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz has pledged £1.3m in February’s draft budget for additional funds to employ the staff we need to urgently tackle both the existing backlog of EHCPs and to ensure future applications are completed in a timely manner.

“We apologise to families for the delay in issuing the plans and look forward to working with them as we make significant improvements this year.”

The council urged the government to increase funding to provide adequate and fair access to SEN provision for schools and local authorities.