This blog takes a look at the number of requests for an EHCP and explores the increase from 2020 to 2021 in the context of previous rises.
Last week, the Department for Education (DfE) published data on children and young people in England with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP). This data included anyone who had an EHCP in January 2022 and provided information on activity in the 2021 calendar year.
A key metric from this dataset is the number of requests received for an EHCP in each local authority. We can calculate this number of requests as a percentage of 0-24 year olds resident in the local authority to understand how request rates vary across the country. We can also look at trends over time to see how the EHCP landscape is changing and what this might mean for local authorities now and in the future.
How do EHCP request rates vary across the country?
The map below shows the request rate for an EHCP as a percentage of 0-24 year old residents at either a regional or local authority level. Purple colouring denotes areas where the request rate is higher and orange where it is lower.
Regional Summary Findings
- All nine regions of England saw an increase in the percentage of requests made for an EHCP from 2020 to 2021
- At 0.62%, the East of England and the South East had the highest request rates of all England regions
Local Authority Summary Findings
- Just fifteen local authorities saw no change or a decrease to their request rate from 2020 to 2021
- The local authorities that saw the largest increase in request rate – of 0.29 percentage points – were Waltham Forest, Middlesborough and Torbay
- On the Isle of Wight, one out of every 100 (1.07%) children and young people requested an EHCP, the highest of any England local authority
Key Finding: Across all regions and the majority of local authorities, the request rate for an EHCP is increasing
Is an increasing request rate a cause for concern?
In 2021, over 90,000 requests for an EHCP were made in England, an increase of 23% from the 75,951 requests in 2020. While the number of requests for an EHCP has been growing year on year, a 23% increase does appear to be particularly large. In comparison, there was an average year on year increase of 14% from 2016 to 2019. This change is likely explained by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The chart below demonstrates that, from 2016 to 2019, the number of requests for an EHCP was increasing at a relatively steady linear rate. If this trend had continued, as shown by the dotted blue line, we might have expected around 90,000 requests in 2020 and 100,000 requests in 2021. However, the number of requests for an EHCP actually fell in 2020, undoubtedly as a result of the pandemic. The larger than expected increase from 2020 to 2021 can therefore partially be explained by the backlog in requests from 2020. In fact, even with this substantial increase of 23%, number of requests in 2021 are still not where we would expect them to be if the pre-pandemic trend had continued.
While this number is in line with historic trends, there may still be significant areas for concern. The pre-pandemic year-on-year increase of 14% was already placing considerable extra burden on the system as a whole, and concerns have been voiced about whether there are sufficient resource to keep up with demand. Without similar increases in funding, this increase in the request rate could lead to children, young people and their families missing out on essential support.
In summary, while the increase from 2020 to 2021 initially looks large, the overall number of requests for an EHCP appears to be in line with historic trends
Has this affected timeliness?
According to DfE guidance, the process of issuing an EHCP must take no longer than 20 weeks from the point an assessment is requested. There is concern that as request rates go up, this will put a strain on local authority’s resources and reduce the number that are being issued within this 20 week target.
However, according to the latest data released, this does not seem to be the case. In the 2021 calendar year, 59.9% of the new EHCPs made were issued in the 20 week time limit. This was an increase from the 58.0% issued within 20 weeks in 2020, and almost a return to the 60.4% in 2019.
While the number is not decreasing, it highlights that many local authorities are consistently missing this target for individuals awaiting their EHCP. In 2021, of local authorities who issued more than five EHCPs, just three were able to meet this 20 week target in 100% of cases; Windsor and Maidenhead, Calderdale and Kensington and Chelsea. Of the remaining local authorities, 44 missed the 20 week target more than half the time.
Conclusion and final thoughts
There is no doubt that the SEND landscape across England is changing as more and more children and young people request and are issued an EHCP. What this may mean for children, young people and their families as well as how local authorities may cope with these pressures remains to be seen. Increasing demand without equivalent increases in funding and resources for local authorities is likely to lead to children and young people missing out on essential support.
The recent Government SEND Review outlines plans to ensure children and young people with SEND have “access to the right support, in the right place, and at the right time”. The consultation on these proposals is open until the 22nd July 2022 and offers an opportunity for people to share their thoughts and feedback.
If you’d like more help understanding your local SEND picture, please get in touch.