Families across Bournemouth have resorted to homeschooling their children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) because of the long waits for school care plans.
Not a single EHCP (Education Health and Care Plan) was completed within the statutory period of 20 weeks in July 2023, according to the latest BCP Council figures.
The average wait for an EHCP in July was 44.5 weeks, more than double the maximum statutory length.
Without the right support, children have been unable to maintain attendance.
This has put pressure on parents to provide an alternative.
Amanda Wathen is a single mother of three and parent rep for SWAN UK.
She said: “It took almost a year to get an EHCP for my son.”
A 2021 Ofsted report into the council’s services raised ‘significant concerns’ about the service.
After this, Amanda helped inform how the council should improve.
She said: “It’s caused real mental health issues for some parents because they’ve just felt so dejected and disheartened by the whole process where we came together to actually make a real difference.”
Vicky Welland has three children with SEN and is taking the council to tribunal for the disruption caused.
She said: “All the bases of support for these children all closed behind my eldest. The others were left in limbo in mainstream school.”
The number of plan applications increased by 9% nationally from 2022, with less than 50% completed in the statutory period.
The Department for Education blamed this on the limited number of educational psychologists.
They added that the long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was also a factor.
Councillor Richard Burton, Portfolio Holder for Children and Young Persons Services at BCP Council, said: “I understand the frustrations and concerns of parents and I’m sorry about the state that it’s in.
“This is a priority for the council, but it’s not a quick fix. You’re looking at a three or four year journey of making improvements.”
BCP Council recently approved a payment of £784,000 into the SEND system to manage the backlog of cases.