Dozens of refused special needs assessments for Peterborough children overturned on appeal

Dozens of decisions to refuse assessments for Peterborough children with special educational needs and disabilities have been overturned on appeal.

Saturday, 5th June 2021, 6:30 pm

From the start of 2019, at least 621 applications to Peterborough City Council for Education, Health and Care Plans have been made. EHCPs identify educational, health and social needs for children and young people with SEND and set out the additional support they require.

Of those requests, 288 were refused an EHCP assessment (46 per cent), which led to at least 133 cases of mediation.

And of those, 48 cases resulted in the refusal to carry out an assessment to be overturned.

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In addition, five further cases were overturned at a tribunal, although that number could be higher with Peterborough City Council unable to produce figures for 2019.

That means of the 288 refusals for an assessment, at least 53 (18.4 per cent) have been overturned.

The council said it does not hold data for how many of those assessments following an overturned decision led to EHCPs later being implemented.

Peterborough autism campaigner Nazreen Bibi said: “Education, Health and Care Plans in theory should be focused on identifying and meeting the child’s needs in school.

“However, evidence suggests that the number of parents appealing the EHCP decision has risen over the years and that 95 per cent of parents win these tribunals costing the local authorities up £11,000 per case.

“It is estimated that collectively local authorities have wasted an estimated £200 million of scarce resources on SENDIST appeals.”

A council spokesperson said: “The number of requests for statutory assessment that are not agreed is in line with the national average.

“Of those not agreed, some may result in an appeal. This can be done via the SEND First Tier Tribunal, but the majority of disputes are dealt with via an independently commissioned mediation service.

“Mediation does not order us to change our decision but is a means through which decisions can be explained and/or reconsidered.

“Feedback from families about our process is positive. Appeals to tribunal for Refusal to Assess are relatively low - nationally they sit at approximately 30 per cent.

“In contrast, the percentage of appeals for Refusal to Assess in Peterborough for 2020 was 10 per cent.”