Special needs teen ‘let down’ by council, claims law firm

County Hall in Matlock, the headquarters of Derbyshire County Council.
County Hall in Matlock, the headquarters of Derbyshire County Council.
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Every special needs teenager in Derbyshire due to leave secondary school this summer has been failed by the local authority this year, educational experts have claimed.

Solicitors firm Simpson Millar claims those pupils finishing school and moving to a post-16 placement, such as an apprenticeship or college, had been let down by Derbyshire County Council after saying the authority missed a deadline for issuing education, health and care plans (EHC) to the teenagers.

Not one of the 528 young people in the county received their plans before the cut-off date on March 31, according to the solicitors firm who had submitted a Freedom of Information request.

Derbyshire was among a handful of authorities in the UK deemed to have failed every teenager within their area.

Imogen Jolley, from Simpson Millar, is shocked at the result and said: “Local authorities have a legal duty to prepare and issue EHC plans for young people with special educational needs – setting out their transition from school to a college placement or apprenticeship.

“The new deadline was intended to allow parents time to prepare their young person for a transition which can otherwise cause a great degree of stress and anxiety.

“We have clearly uncovered a systemic problem which is affecting young people with special educational needs at a crucial time in their education.

“Shortcomings this clearly indicates a widespread lack of resources to meet a deadline which is both legal and essential.

“What’s the point in having a deadline if local authorities have scant regard for it, or are entirely unable to meet it? This is an issue that needs addressing now?”

Education solicitor James Betts from Simpson Millar is advising parents of teenagers who are yet to receive their children’s post-16 transition plan.

He said: “Young people are being short-changed by local authorities up and down the country – leaving parents who are already worried about their transition chasing plans that should have been issued months ago.

“As time runs out, so does the opportunity for parents to challenge the placements and provision offered in the plans. Perhaps that is what the local authorities are hoping for.”

A Derbyshire County Council spokesman said: “The figures we supplied in response to this Freedom of Information request have not been used alongside the detailed explanation we provided, which is unfortunate and gives an inaccurate picture of what is happening in Derbyshire.

“We currently have 528 pupils with a statement of special educational need who could be leaving school this academic year and who may need an Education Health Care Plan in the future.

“A number of these have had their statements converted to an Education Health Care Plan or are currently in the process of having the statements converted.

“We are committed to ensuring all young people who require an EHC Plan have one and no young person has been failed by our processes as all have access to college support systems or are remaining in school, where their needs will be met.”