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Frequently asked questions

Find quick access to information, advice and guidance on the Lewisham Local Offer.
What to do if I think my child has special educational needs?

Is your child struggling with their learning or socially in school? Has additional support been provided but they are still finding things difficult? If so, they may have special educational needs.

There is a legal definition for special educational needs but, in essence, if your child finds it harder to learn than the majority of their peers and continues to struggle despite extra targeted support, then they may have special educational needs.

What is SEN support?

When your child’s school identifies that they may have special educational needs, the class teacher, with the help from the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo), should provide additional support.

The school should involve you in the discussion(s) about how much support your child needs. However, the amount of support a school can provide ‘in-house’ is limited to the amount of funding that it has available to them for each child.

If the support that is needed requires specialisms beyond that available in a school, or an amount of support which goes beyond the funding available, it is possible that the support provided at SEN Support may not be sufficient and you and/or the school may feel that you need to ask the local authority to assess your child’s special educational needs via an Education, Health & Care (EHC) needs assessment.

What is an Education, Health & Care (EHC) needs assessment? 

The local authority will conduct an EHC needs assessment if they think that your child may have special educational needs and that those needs might need the support of an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHC Plan). The local authority must complete the assessment within 16 weeks and, if it decides to issue an EHCP, do so within 20 weeks of the original request. See our factsheet The EHC needs assessment for more information.

If the local authority refuses to conduct an EHC needs assessment or if they refuse to issue an EHC Plan following their assessment, you will have a right to appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST).

If you wish to make an appeal, you will need to contact your mediation service within 2 months and then send an appeal form to the SENDIST once the mediation service send you the ‘mediation certificate’.

The appeal process takes approximately 20 weeks to reach hearing and a further 2 weeks to receive the decision. If your appeal is a phase transfer appeal (e.g. primary to secondary schools) the appeal process will be shorter, approximately 12 weeks.

What is an Education, Health & Care Plan (EHCP)?

The Education, Health & Care Plan or EHC Plan is a document which sets out the education, health and social care needs your child or young person has and the support that is necessary to cater for those needs. The gateway for the EHC Plan is to have special educational needs, although the EHC Plan itself also covers health and social care needs and provision.

The EHCP is a legally binding document. It is binding on not only the local authority, but also on local health services (Care Commissioning Groups).

The current SEND Code of Practice gives guidance, but does not say exactly what the EHCP should look like. This means that every local authority may prepare the document so this means that it will look different from other local authorities.

What is an Annual Review?

All Education, Health & Care Plans (EHC Plans) must be reviewed at least once a year.

For children under 5 years the EHC Plan should be reviewed more frequently. In this instance an EHC Plan should be reviewed every 3-6 months.

A meeting will be held with parents, the child (if able), the local authority, the school and all the professionals involved, to discuss the child’s progress over the previous 12 months and consider whether amendments need to be made to the child’s EHC Plan. The review will also focus on the Outcome and Steps Towards section of the EHCPlan and decide whether or not they need to be changed.

After the meeting, the head teacher will submit an Annual Review report to the local authority with or without requested amendments to your child’s EHC Plan. The local authority will consider this and either issue an amended proposed EHC Plan or will decide not to amend it. Parents can make an appeal against the contents of the EHC Plan once it is finalised or against the local authority's refusal to amend the EHC Plan. 

The LA has issued a proposed amended EHCP that I do not agree with. What can I do?

If you do not agree with the proposed amendments you will have 15 days to respond and/or request a meeting with the local authority. The authority must consider your requested amendments but does not have to incorporate these into the final EHC Plan.

If you are unhappy with the final EHC Plan you will have two months in which to appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST). You can also request information, advice and guidance from your local SEND mediation service.

What is the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal?

The Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST) considers parents’ appeals against the decisions of local authorities about children’s special educational needs where the parents cannot reach agreement with the local authority. It also handles claims of disability discrimination against schools.

The day to day paperwork of the SENDIST is dealt with by a clerking team. The SENDIST that will hear your appeal will usually be made up of a Panel of 3 people. The Panel will be made up of a lawyer (who is the Chair person) and 1 or 2 professionals with professional experience of working with children with special educational needs.

Travel Coordination Team

Eligible children and young people (those with an EHC Plan) may be entitled to assistance getting to and from their education setting.

The travel coordination team (TCT) assess eligibility of applicants and coordinate the most appropriate form of travel assistance in each individual case.

The team also includes an internal independent travel training service that works with young people one to one and in small groups, to give them the necessary skills to be able to travel independently and safely. 

Find out more about the eligibility criteria and how to apply for travel assistance for children and young people with SEND.  

Email: TCT@lewisham.gov.uk

Specialist Teachers and Educational Psychology Service (STEPS)

STEPS is made up of the following teams to enable children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities to achieve better life outcomes. They include: 

  • Educational Psychology Team 
  • Specialist Teachers Team for Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD – dyslexia and dyscalculia team) 
  • Specialist Teachers Team for Sensory Impairments (Sensory Team) 

Email: STEPS@lewisham.gov.uk 

Telephone: 0208 314 7899  

Special Educational Needs (SEN) team

The SEN Team supports the statutory EHC needs assessment process, drafts and issues.

EHC plans, brokers placements, and processes annual reviews. The SEN Team consults with schools to secure appropriate provision and plan for a successful transition into adulthood for CYP with SEND. Senior SEN Case Officers allocated to your school are the first point of contact for any CYP with EHC plans. 

Email: SEN@lewisham.gov.uk

Telephone: 0208 314 6303 / 0208 314 6369

Social Work Service for Children with Disabilities, Teams 1, 2 and 3 

The social work service for children with disabilities (CWD) provides assessment and support to CYP (children and young people) with disabilities and their families. The team operates across the full spectrum of social work intervention. This includes child protection, children in need, children looked after and transition into adulthood.

The assessed impact of the child’s disability determines the level and nature of the support the family are provided. Teams 1 and 2 identify the strengths of a family, it’s support network, the role of other agencies, whether the CYP should be referred to targeted or specialist provision, whether there is an ongoing role for social work intervention, and they consider whether a recommendation will be made for a care support package.

Team 3 undertake reviews of care support packages and other support provided to the CYP and their family. This team also offers a care coordination role for over-5s that do not have an allocated social worker but have complex health, learning or therapy needs. 

Referrals into the service are via our Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) by calling 020 8314 6660.  

Contact the Social Work Service for Children with Disabilities: 

Email: CWDS@lewisham.gov.uk  

Telephone: 0208 314 7642 / 0208 314 3846

Emergency Out of Hours Duty: 0208 314 6000

Short Breaks Service

If you’re a parent or carer of a disabled child you may be eligible for additional short breaks.  

Everyone can access universal short breaks, which are mainstream services that cater for disabled and non-disabled children and young people. Parents and carers can get a short break from their caring responsibilities by using these activities. 

If your child's disabilities mean they can't access universal services, you may be eligible for targeted short breaks

Your family is eligible for specialist short breaks if a social worker has referred the child or young person to the Short Breaks Team for support.  

For more information, contact the Short Break Team on: 

Email: shortbreaks@lewisham.gov.uk  

T: 07468 709362 / 07468 709083 / 07468 709273 / 07468 709303 / 07920 045899 / 07468 709247

Portage Service

Portage is an educational home visiting service for pre-school children with developmental differences. Working with parents and carers, Portage offer practical help and ideas to support a child's development through play, using a small steps approach. 

To find out more about the portage service, contact Corinne Challener, Portage manager on:  

Email corinne.challener@lewisham.gov.uk  

Telephone 07557 860822

Paediatric Community Occupational Therapy Service 

The Lewisham Paediatric Community Occupational Therapy Team (COT) visit children and young people with permanent disabilities in their home environment and complete functional assessments of activities of daily living.

COT recommend specialist equipment, minor and major adaptations and advise on safe manual handling techniques and assist children and young people with disabilities to increase their safety and independence. COT aim to improve their participation in activities of daily living to fulfil their potential.

Eligibility criteria for service

COT provide a service for children and young people with permanent disabilities (including those with physical, learning disabilities and/or mental health problems) who are living in or the responsibility of the borough, aged 0-18 years old.

How to make a referral?

COT have an open referral system. They accept self-referrals, referrals from a carer or parent, or a Health and Social Care professional.

A referral form must be completed and is accepted via secure email or over the telephone. To complete a referral contact them.

Email: paediatricCOT@lewisham.gov.uk

Telephone: 07827 305586 / 07393 005384

Commissioning and Strategy Team 

The commissioning and strategy team develop, consult and monitor the Local Area SEND Partnership Strategy which includes the objectives and key priorities for the Local Authority in enabling children and young people with SEND to achieve their outcomes and aspirations.

The team is also responsible for the development of the Integrated Services for SEND and communication and engagement both internally and across the partnership including our children and young people.