‘Disappointment’ as Hertfordshire councillor told review into EHCP process will not seek views of parents

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The review was prompted by allegations of ‘systemic failings’

Liberal Democrat councillor Lawrence Brass says he is ‘disappointed’ after hearing an independent review into the EHCP (Education, Health and Care Plan) process in Hertfordshire will not be seeking the views of parents.

Leading barrister Leon Glenister is already part-way through a six-week review of the way EHCP requests are dealt with by Hertfordshire County Council – with a particular focus on the initial stages.

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And at a meeting of the council’s education, libraries and lifelong learning cabinet panel on Wednesday (17 April), Cllr Brass had urged parents to get in touch with Mr Glenister.

Cllr Brass questioned whether a questionnaire, sent to parents in relation to the review, was it 'a waste of time'. Image:  Dimitri KarastelevCllr Brass questioned whether a questionnaire, sent to parents in relation to the review, was it 'a waste of time'. Image:  Dimitri Karastelev
Cllr Brass questioned whether a questionnaire, sent to parents in relation to the review, was it 'a waste of time'. Image: Dimitri Karastelev

But executive director of children’s service Jo Fisher told councillors the terms of reference of the review were clear – and that Mr Glenister was NOT doing an ‘open invite’ to anyone to contact him.

“It is a very focussed review on a specific part of an education health and care plan assessment process,” she said.

“So I just wanted to say that – rather than there be any misunderstanding flowing from this meeting.”

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Director of inclusion and skills Hero Slinn added there would be the opportunity for Mr Glenister to gather a range of views.

And she highlighted an earlier survey – conducted during the SEND inspection in July – where parents had been able to contribute.

During the meeting Cllr Brass acknowledged how ‘unhappy’ people were with the EHCP assessment process.

And he suggested parents had already been filling out questionnaires for the review – asking if they were wasting their time.

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Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Brass told the Local Democracy Reporting Service he didn’t understand why parents would not be allowed to contribute.

“Surely it’s the parents that need to be spoken to,” he said.

Now Cllr Brass says he plans to contact Mr Glenister directly to ask if he would be willing to hear from parents.

“I accept there was a survey a few months ago,” he said. “I know the parents probably don’t feel that is sufficient.”

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Meanwhile Cllr Brass also intends to seek assurance that county councillors and other political leaders will be able to contribute to the review.

The independent review is expected to focus on the initial stage of the EHCP process – including decisions not to progress applications through to the assessment stage.

According to council data, 30 per cent of EHCP applications made since September were NOT progressed to the assessment stage in Hertfordshire.

But where parents have challenged the council’s ‘refusal to assess’ at Tribunal, data from September 2021 onwards shows that the vast majority (81 per cent) have resulted in the application then progressing to assessment.

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The launch of the review comes less than a year after an inspection by OFSTED and the Care Quality Commission found ‘systemic failings’ in the provision of SEND services in the county.

And according to council officials, it has been prompted by allegations of ‘systemic failings’ made by a parent in the High Court last year.

EHCPs are legally binding documents that set out the special education health and care needs of a child or young person – as well as the extra help and support they will need to overcome barriers to learning.