The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) has warned that the shortage of educational psychologists is having a significant impact on councils’ ability to set out the needs of learners with SEND. The problems are being caused by the delays in Education, Health and Care Needs Assessments (EHCNA) awaiting input from an educational psychologist. This is causing delays to ensuring that EHC plans are issued within the statutory time limit and delaying the provision of services for the learner. The LGSCO acknowledges that the SEND and AP improvement plan has a focus on educational psychologists, however this is likely to take some time to implement and the issues are currently heightened across the sector.
With one case from Surrey hitting the headlines recently, with a family awarded £1000 in compensation due to the failure to assess with a delay of 37 weeks, the Surrey Cabinet Member for Children, Clare Curran said ‘We also recognise the significant issues that confront the SEND system nationally. We have seen a 64% increase in education, health and care needs assessment requests across Surrey since 2020, at a time of a national shortage of educational psychologists. We are doing our utmost to recruit more to meet this demand, and we are filling this gap as best we can. We have already been able to halve the backlog of EP advices through the steps we’ve taken locally, but we hope to see the national shortage in trained EPs and other issues addressed soon through the government’s improvement plan.’