Our readers have been sending in their questions for our experts to answer and this week, a mum who wished to remain anonymous needed help when it came to her three year old daughter’s EHCP. The Plan was in place and the funding had been allocated but our reader felt that the school were spending the money elsewhere and failing to put the correct support in place. We asked Laxmi Patel from Boyes Turner for some expert advice.
I would be very grateful if you could offer any advice. My daughter is 3 years old, with a diagnosis of ASD. We managed to get her an EHCP with a high amount of money attached to meet her needs. Unfortunately, we are running into real problems with the SENCo and other senior members of staff within the school. The practitioners within the room are fantastic and fully understand my daughter and her needs, however they have limited resources and time to support her. I thought the money would mean intensive support and extra resources but unfortunately the school have found many ways to cut corners and not actually provide/pay for anything extra for her.
Following up with them, they always seem to have an excuse and have promised transparency around costing and the funding she has received but after 4 months it’s becoming infuriating. What duty do the school have to prove where they have spent the extra funding to the local authority? And what can I do about their false promises? Is the next step for me to go to the governing body?
I’m not sure how it all works exactly.
Lack of funding for supporting children with special educational needs is a growing problem. It is important to understand who has a duty to fund provision in the Plan.
The way in which funding for support in an EHCP works is that the school is expected to spend up to the allocated sum (usually between £4,500 – £6,000 p.a. but often at the lower end for a 3-year-old) out of the schools’ assigned budget. Any further funding must be provided on top of this by the local authority (LA). The way in which funding is allocated is by looking at educational support set out in the Plan (under Section F) and allocating a sum for each and every type of support. This can only be done properly if the support set out is very specific and quantified.
So, for example, if Section F of your daughter’s EHCP provides for the following:
- 1:1 Teaching Assistant 32 hours/week cost (estimated) £19,000 p.a.
- OT, direct input 1 hour/every fortnight cost (estimated) £1,800 p.a.
- SLT, direct input 30 minutes/week cost (estimated) £1,800 p.a.
Total cost would be £22,600 p.a.
The school would have to fund the first amount, £4,500 – £6,000. The LA would have to fund the remainder.
You say you have a Plan that has ‘a high amount of money attached to meet her needs’. If that is correct and the school is not using the funds appropriately to deliver what is set out in the Plan, then my advice would be:
- arrange to speak with the SENCo about your concerns. Ask to see what support is being put in place and make sure this is matched up to provision set out in Section F of the Plan. If the school is slow in coming back to you and there is no transparency, then
- notify the LA that provision is not being delivered as set out in the Plan. It is ultimately the LA’s duty to ensure delivery of provision as set out in the Plan. The LA should ask the school how they are spending the money given for delivery of provision in the Plan.
Be aware that the LA (and school) may be able to wriggle out of delivering provision if Section F of the Plan is written in vague terms. Examples of this include ‘X will be supported throughout the day as necessary’, ‘A SLT programme as assessed and advised by the therapist’, ‘Regular small group work’ etc. That is why provision in the Plan must be drafted in a very specific and quantified way.
If contacting the LA does not ensure delivery of provision, then you can take the LA to court for failing to abide by their statutory duty by way of judicial review action.
Laxmi Patel is Partner at Boyes Turner LLP
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