SEND• 3 Min read

18th May 2021

Oftsed Reports Delays To EHC Care Plans in SEND

Reviewing the long term impact of the pandemic on the UK’s educational and social care services will be a protracted process for school leaders and the Department For Education.  A recent report by Oftsed has highlighted issues around how long parents and guardians are having to wait for EHC plans to be put in place once the process has been started.  Some applications wait an unacceptably long time to be processed – in the most extreme cases, up to five years has passed before an EHC plan has been put in place for a child or young person with SEND.

   What is an EHC Plan?

EHC plans are issued when a child or young person requires additional learning, health and social care support. They may require help to access mainstream education, or financial support to provide appropriate care at home. The plans are essential for both the child and their guardians. Once the process has started, it should take up to 20 weeks to process. In 2019, 60% of EHC plans had been issued within the guidance period, down to 58% in 2020. This means over 2500 children waiting an unacceptably long time to have their basic education needs met.


Waits of up to five years are now coming to light. These aren’t just one-offs, more than one headteacher reported concerns relating to long or extremely long waits for EHC plans to be put in place. Delays mean that children are suffering – they may not have access to essential equipment to allow them to interact, move or take part in lessons. EHC plans don’t just lay out needs within an educational setting, they also have social, health and funding provisions that are usually essential for the young person’s quality of life.

Delays in accessing required support can cause serious distress for families. One aspect of the report found that some parents are paying privately for health or educational provisions for their children, often leaving them in debt or serious financial deficit. It’s also not an option for many families – 31% of SEND children are on Free School Meals compared to 15% of their peers without special educational needs.

   What’s causing ehc plan delays?

There are many factors that could contribute towards long waits for young people to be assessed and plans to be put in place to support them. The delays could arise during the assessment stage or at any point in the process. There have always been concerns that unnecessary bureaucracy was preventing the system from working as it should. COVID has added to the problems, with offices and schools closed, issues piled up with fewer people working to oversee them.

In the coming months, it will be essential for organisations to work to reduce backlog. The Ofsted report has brought the issues to light, but it won’t be clear that the wait for anxious parents and families is reducing for some time. We can support schools by sourcing qualified SEND specialists to work on a flexible basis. Find out more about our dedicated SEND recruitment and support team here.

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