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How Should Local Authorities Respond to Education, Health and Care Plans?

Posted on November 22, 2013

How Should Local Authorities Respond to Education, Health and Care Plans?

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A brand new year is nearly upon us, and for the education sector that means some big changes are about to happen. 2014 will see the beginning of the government’s overhaul of special educational needs (SEN); the biggest shake up of the sector for 30 years.

Authorities and professionals from different social service areas must unify and work together to deliver SEN. But what does that mean for educational psychology services?

Of course, the EHC plans will result in an initial uphill struggle for the sector. There will be more work alongside current caseloads and services, which will be a burden on professionals. Many local authorities are only just beginning to address the management of these reforms, meaning they may be on the back foot when the changes come in to play.

Staffing may become a critical factor, with local authorities struggling to roll out their own implementation plans, taking on additional work and whilst maintaining current workloads.

With pathfinder authorities, some exemplary work has already been undertaken and some best practice guidelines have been shared. Bromley is a case in point: their latest presentations can be found here www.excellencegateway.org.uk/node/2756 and will greatly aid the work of other authorities trying to navigate the new EHCPs.

Miles Davis, MD from Psychology People commented ‘I’ve had many phone calls in the past few weeks with Principle Educational Psychologists and Service Managers asking how we can help by putting small teams of Locum EP’s together to come in assist during what will be a busy time for all.’

‘We all know what financial constraints LA’s are working under still, and it still upsets me to say that SEN services have perhaps suffered more than other departments, but the fact is this work needs to be completed – the government have made this very clear!’

‘In situations like this, the utilisation of flexible staffing models is a prime example of how it can be of real benefit. The cost shouldn’t be looked at as the cost of the Locums, but the cost of not completing the project correctly. No-one wants to see anything drop through the gaps due to overburdened staff carrying out their day job’s whilst being part of a team involved in meeting’s about drawing up plans or how you will implement them.’

‘I know that a few Principle EP’s I have spoken with have been able to seek emergency budgets for this work to back fill EP’s that have been moved onto their new Preparing for Adulthood teams or the Project team.’

So how can the impact be minimised?

In response to the overhaul of SEN, professionals and local authorities should be adapting their staff processes to alleviate the strain that the extra workload will ultimately bring.

Among the most concerned about the upcoming changes are Principle Educational Psychologists and Service Managers. Local authorities are working under enormous financial constraints, so how will Educational Psychology services be delivered within these growing pressures?

The solution lies in workforce planning and the use of flexible staffing. Flexible staffing models will allow teams to expand and contract according to workload. Locum EPs can pick up the slack during busy periods, while imparting their advice and experience from other Authorities they may have worked at previously.

Whilst there is a cost associated with employing Locums, it is more helpful to address the bigger picture. The cost of bringing in a team of Locum EPs is much less than the cost of a failed project. Not only will there be greater successes, but overburdened staff will feel the strain lifted from their shoulders, allowing them the breathing space to draw up long-term implementation plans.

For some Principle EPs, the impact may even be lifted by emergency budgets, which are being granted in some cases to backfill those who have been moved into Preparing for Adulthood or Project teams.

With 2014 fast approaching, now is certainly the time for local authorities and SEN professionals to employ some out-of-the-box thinking before changes come into force. With a flexible, adaptable approach, the burden can be lessened and the special educational needs sector can begin moving forward with a positive mindset.