Over a 1000 children in Derby have Special Educational Needs (SEN). A document is compiled by Derby City Council which specifies the nature of their needs, and the provisions that will be put in place to ensure that they receive an appropriate education. This is the Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP). Currently the Council is short of capacity for writing the plans, so has engaged a 3rd Party called Enhance EHC to do some of that drafting under contract.
In an interview with the website for Parents of children with SEN – “Special Needs Jungle”, Enhance EHC confirmed:
“Young people / parents are entitled to know where their information is shared and Local Authorities (LA)s should have adequate procedures around this. Most importantly, LAs have a duty to ensure that any external service used will a) treat data with the requisite care and b) perform the service to at least the same standard as any such function within the LA”
Enhance EHC recognised that adhering to Data Protection legislation is an important part of their business:
“Ensuring that we are compliant with the Data Protection Act has always been a key priority for us, and we have always expected that the LAs will be meeting their obligations likewise.”
Has Derby City Council done this explicitly?
No, is the answer.
In the detailed terms and conditions there is an implicit reference to external use of information. No procedure has been in place that requests the parents’ explicit consent.
Under Freedom of Information, the Council was asked:
How many children’s EHC plans have been outsourced so far? – 326
How many of these have been subject to explicit parental consent – 2
The forms are in the process of being revised to ensure that specific consent is requested and given for outsourcing.
Normally, the Council is very sensitive to data protection, to the point where it uses this argument for denying seemingly trivial information requests. How this has slipped through the net, and detailed medical reports and personal statements have been released should be subject to an enquiry.
One parent who refused to give consent was told that the Council could not confirm when her child’s overdue EHCP would be completed. Is there a risk that parents will be coerced into giving consent as a matter of expedience rather through personal choice?
Categories: Special Educational Needs