More ‘frustration’ as Horsham mother fights for son to go to school

Sabrina Edwards with her 3 year old son Patrick who has severe autism. 10-03-15 JPCT. Pic Steve Robards SUS-151003-212922001
Sabrina Edwards with her 3 year old son Patrick who has severe autism. 10-03-15 JPCT. Pic Steve Robards SUS-151003-212922001
  • Mother battles to get three-year-old son an Educational Health and Care Plan
  • Plan outlines extra help son will need when starting school
  • Change in law has caused backlog for staff working on plans
  • Mrs Edwards not the first to complain
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Another Horsham mother has spoken about her ‘frustration’ of trying to get an Educational Health and Care Plan (EHCP) for her son.

Sabrina Edwards’ son Patrick suffers with autism and for the past six months she has been battling to start the 20 week process to get a plan which will outline the extra help he needs when starting school in September.

It is very frustrating, it’s very time consuming constantly chasing people and having to tell them the same thing.

Mother Sabrina Edwards

She said without this plan Patrick will not get the support he needs and there was a chance the three-year-old would not be starting school in the autumn.

Mrs Edwards is not the first parent to contact the County Times about the problem.

In December three more mums said they were worried about the length of time it had taken to start the EHCP process.

West Sussex County Council, responsible for education in the county, explained the delays had been caused due to a change in the law.

They said the previous special educational needs statements (SEN) have been replaced by the new EHCP and a backlog has been created while the council transfers everyone on to the new plan.

A spokesperson for the council added: “We are currently transferring existing Statements of Special Educational Needs into new Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP), following a fundamental change in the law.

“This is a major task that has unfortunately been affected by a shortage of staff. However, following recent recruitment the team responsible has been strengthened.

They added: “The transfer process is new and we have found that it takes additional time to ensure that the quality of each plan is at a high standard. Unfortunately this has had an impact on the timing of new assessments and has meant some of them are not being completed within the timescale we usually work to.

“We work closely with a number of other local authorities and we are aware that they are also facing similar challenges.

“We appreciate that this may cause upset and anxiety to families and apologise for any delays. However, it is vital that we produce the best quality plans that we can and we are working hard to get back on schedule.”

Mrs Edwards said she understood there had been delays but felt ‘frustrated’ no-one had been able to help.

She said: “It seems to be impossible. Everyone seems to be singing from different hymn sheets instead of the same one.

“It is very frustrating, it’s very time consuming constantly chasing people and having to tell them the same thing.”

Mrs Edwards said she applied to start the process back in October but it wasn’t until the beginning of March she was told it would be starting.

She said: “We should have been four or five weeks into this process by now.

“They said they might have the draft copy written by August. August is no good for me, the schools will be closed and I would have had to apply by then. It should have been made by June but that is still pushing it for me.”

In response the council spokesperson said: “A manager has spoken to Mrs Edwards about her son’s assessment and informed her that we will make every effort to ensure that it is completed in time for her to make an informed choice about the right school for him.

“If an EHCP is issued for Patrick then a school placement will be named.

“Mrs Edwards should have already applied for a school place for Patrick through the usual school admission process and will receive details of his allocated place in April. If the assessment concludes that the place allocated to Patrick is not appropriate then an alternative placement will be named in his EHCP.”