CONCERNS have been raised wealthy parents are “jumping the queue” to get support for their special needs children.

Children’s social care bosses told councillors some parents are paying for private assessments of their children instead of — or as well as — waiting for a Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) education, health and care plan (EHCP).

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This comes as stats show the authority’s children’s services department completes only 14 per cent of EHCPs within the required 20 week period after a child is referred.

The national average is 58 per cent.

Councillor Alison Swaddle asked officers: “Does this mean that parents who can afford to pay for a private assessment are jumping the queue?”

Sal Thirlway, assistant director of children’s services at WBC, responded saying there was a “mixture” of reasons for parents opting to get private assessments.

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He added: “It is two-fold.

“There is something about timeliness. In order to get some assessments and diagnoses, it can take a lot longer than paying privately to have those assessments undertaken.

“They are wishing to expedite the process of an EHCP by getting a private assessment.

“Some families, it will be because the assessment they have received differs from the assessment they would like and therefore some families will choose to get a private assessment for a second opinion.

“One of the things we are trying to resist is that [getting a] private assessment means you jump the queue.”

Mr Thirlway said the authority is working with SEND Voices Wokingham to understand further why parents pay for private reports.

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Councillor Andy Croy said some parents have told him waiting for an EHCP is “horrible”.

Mr Thirlway acknowledged that the council does not want to be “generating a sense of frustration from parents” or “generate complaints that can be avoided” by delaying EHCPs.

He continued: “We know if we can get our timeliness right and our quality right, this should reduce the propensity for parents and carers to seek private assessments.”

WBC’s Children’s services overview and scrutiny committee discussed private assessments at a meeting on Tuesday, January 21.