Ealing Council, along with Staffordshire County Council and Surry County Council, has won a £99,000 Local Digital government grant to develop their idea to build a new system that will cut the time it takes families of children with additional needs to be given an agreed plan for their child’s future education and health needs.
All three local authorities will work together on the innovation and have until the spring to develop the system before applying for further funding to complete and launch it.
DIGITAL EDUCATION AND HEALTH CARE PLANS
All children and young people up to the age of 25 with special educational needs are entitled to an education and health care plan (EHCP). These plans are written by their local authority. They identify their educational, health and social needs and set out the extra support required to meet those needs. They might name the school the child should attend or identify extra support such as one-on-one time in school or physical therapy.
The current process of writing these plans is complex and bureaucratic, requiring time-consuming manual data entry, administration and paperwork. These tasks are carried out by highly skilled educational psychologists whose time could be better spent. The result of this current process is a long waiting time for families who need these crucial plans to access get the right support for their children.
The purpose of this project is to completely redesign the existing system, removing many of the administrative burdens by automating and bringing together the different processes and, therefore, making it quicker and easier to understand for families, schools and professionals.
The statutory timescale from referral to completing an EHCP is 20 weeks. In Ealing, the average waiting time regularly exceeds this timescale, although recent efforts have improved this.
SHORTER WAITING TIMES AND BETTER RESULTS
If the project is a success, and the funding needed to fully develop the new system is found, it is could cut waiting times for families by 50% and reduce annual costs by £250,000 for each local authority.
Cllr Yvonne Johnson, deputy leader and member for schools and children’s services, said: “Our Future Ealing programme is all about working together to get better results for local people, despite our 64% government funding cut. This project aims to greatly improve the EHCP process for parents, carers, schools and professionals and, at the same time, save council tax payer’s money. And I am delighted that the government has given its backing through the award of this grant.
“This project is in its early stages, but it is very exciting and is an excellent example of how we are innovating and using digital technologies to make life better for our residents. By collaborating with other local authorities, we can pool our experience and resources and work towards developing a system that all councils could benefit from.”
More details are available on the Local Digital website.