Family’s frustration at delay in plan for Isobel

Latest health news from the Suffolk Free Press, suffolkfreepress.co.uk, @sfpsudbury on Twitter
Latest health news from the Suffolk Free Press, suffolkfreepress.co.uk, @sfpsudbury on Twitter
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A disabled five-year-old girl is still waiting for a council to approve a healthcare plan – nearly a year after undergoing assessments.

Isobel Burns, who currently attends Hillside Special School in Sudbury, has autism and severe, drug-resistant epilepsy.

To guarantee her school place and to ensure the school receives funding for her specific needs, her family started the process of getting an Educational Healthcare Plan (EHCP) from Suffolk County Council in January 2016.

After a series of meetings and assessments, which finished in April, the family were told to expect a plan within the 20-week target time.

In June, a meeting was set up, only to be cancelled the day beforehand, with a second meeting also cancelled.

Now, nearly a year later, the family from Grantham Avenue in Great Cornard are still waiting, despite making more than 100 phone calls.

They say they have been brushed off and left totally in the dark for the last three months.

“The council said they would send a copy out but, by August, I was getting a little frustrated,” said Isobel’s father Chris, 41.

“To even get a place at a special or mainstream school, they need the EHCP to put additional support in place.

“It’s only the school’s intervention that’s allowed her a place.”

Mr Burns had to give up his job as a regional manger of an audiological company to look after Isobel.

“She doesn’t walk or talk, but that’s fine. In her own way, she’s a happy, smiling, little girl,” he said.

Chris got in contact with the Free Press after reading an article saying how inspectors had found ‘inefficiencies’ in Suffolk County Council, which it said was not meeting the special educational needs of children.

The report stated there was ‘dissatisfaction, frustration and confusion’ among parents.

The council and Suffolk’s clinical commissioning groups apologised. The council said prior to the Ofsted and CQC inspection that it had identified that significant improvements needed to be made, but said it was already beginning to see the positive impact of changes.

This included the number of statements to be transferred to EHCPs being reduced and the production of new EHCPs being increased.

After seeing this, Mr Burns said: “It’s like they are saying everything is rosy now – and it’s not.”

Gordon Jones, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for children’s services, education and skills, said: “We are aware that there have been long delays with a small number of cases in the production of EHCPs, including Isobel’s, and we are prioritising these cases.

“We are in the process of writing to all parents who have experienced long delays to update them with timescales and to move forward with this process.

“We are sorry that this has happened and are trying to resolve this as quickly as possible.”