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New government target to cut the number of new EHCPs by 20%

It has recently been revealed that the government has signed a contract targeting 20% cuts to the number of new Education, Health and Care Plans (“EHCPs”) being issued for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities in order to bring down costs. The contract aims to reduce the number of EHCPs by a fifth. 

The government has also launched the Delivering Better Value in SEND programme (DBV in SEND) with the aim of supporting local authorities to improve the delivery of SEND services for children and young people, whilst working towards financial sustainability. 55 local councils have opted to participate in the programme, with the aim of decreasing their large SEND budget deficits through measures such as early intervention and teaching children with special needs in mainstream school. 

The Department for Education has signed a £19.5m contract with the consultancy firm Newton Europe to design and develop the DBV programme. The contract states that the intention of the signatories is reduced cost pressure on councils “… as a result of reduced growth in number of EHCPs”.

The target is, again, at least a 20% reduction in new EHCPs being issued. It is stated that the impact of the DBV programme will be measured by monitoring the state of local authorities’ education budgets and the EHCP growth rates. 

The contract also aims to educate more children with special educational needs within mainstream schools with a target of “at least a 20% reduction in placements into independent schools and a 2% reduction in placements into specialist schools”. The contract states that this will be measured by reviewing the rate of pupils with EHCPs within mainstream settings. 

The Department of Education have denied that there are any targets for a particular reduction in EHCPs. However, Newton Europe, the company assisting with the design and development of the DBV programme, state on their website that they guarantee their fees against their results. Therefore, it seems that the company will do anything possible to hit the 20% reduction target. 

The fact is that the cuts target to the number of new EHCPs has been made as local authorities across England are now experiencing huge financial shortfalls on SEND budgets, caused by the rising demand of special educational provision for children and young people in the form of EHCPs. It is therefore likely that this will result in an increase in the following decisions being made by local authorities: 

  • Refusing to undertake an EHC needs assessment for a child/young person; 
  • Refusing to issue an EHCP following a statutory assessment of need.  

It is also likely that there will be an increase in local authorities issuing EHCPs with inadequate details provided in Section B and Section F of the plan, or not naming the parental preference school in Section I. Local Authorities may also increase their decisions to cease to maintain an EHCP.

However, these decisions can be challenged with an appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal, or a judicial review. 
The impact of this is going to weigh heavily on the SEND Tribunal and will likely result in an increase in the amount of appeals being lodged against local authority decisions. Parents should therefore be very proactive when receiving these decisions from their Local Authority and should take the relevant action to challenge these decisions quickly and efficiently in order to avoid unnecessary delays. 

If you have concerns that your child may have special educational needs that are not being met, wish to discuss whether an EHCP might be the right option for your child, or would like assistance with an ongoing Tribunal appeal, please do not hesitate to call our Specialist Education Law Solicitors on 03333 20 27 175 for advice and guidance, or send us an email on