A Day in the Life of a SEN Case Officer

1-2 minutes

In this blog, you will learn:

Since 2019, the number of Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans issued has risen by 72%. In real terms, it means that more than 500,000 children and young people had Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans in 2023. 

However, despite the surge in requests, funding to meet the children’s needs has not scaled at the same pace, leaving those on the ground to pick up the pieces. 

Torn between pressures on local authority demands and what schools and parents say are needed, SEN Case Officers face extreme pressures and hold more responsibility than they are given credit for.

We recently caught up with SEN Case Officer, Kelsie, to discuss the challenges facing the SEND sector and the advice she would give to anyone considering a career as a SEN Case Officer.

With over 10 years experience in the SEN sector, Kelsie is an expert in her field and has experienced the increasing demand on SEN Case Officers first hand. 

We delve into how Kelsie manages to stay positive and how she makes a difference to the lives of children and young people with SEND in this exclusive interview. 

Tell me about your career journey so far

I have been an SEN Case Officer for just shy of 3 years now but I have worked within the SEN field for just over 10 years.

I initially started off within SEND recruitment and broke into the world of SEN casework as a result of furlough and I started spending my free time volunteering for Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Information Advice and Support Service (SENDIASS). SENDIASS supports parents and carers who are going through the EHCP process.

Currently, I am working as a SEN Case Officer managing the whole EHCP for a caseload of over 300 children and young people.

What does a typical day look like for you?

My alarm goes off at around 5am/5.30am and I head off to the gym or for a walk to get myself prepared for the day ahead (although sometimes I admit I don’t wake up at this time!).

After going to the gym, I make a cup of tea or a black coffee depending on my day ahead and log on my laptop to check my emails at around 7am. I spend about an hour doing this depending on the volume I receive and have to respond to.

I then usually have a number of meetings throughout the day and spend a large chunk of time drafting EHCPs and responding to annual reviews. A large chunk of my day is also spent speaking to parents/carers and schools. I will regularly check my emails throughout the day and they take up a huge amount of my time as I like to ensure that my communication is second to none.

What does your role as a SEN Case Officer consist of/require?

As a SEN Case Officer, I am responsible for managing a caseload of over 300 children and young people with additional needs. Within that I am responsible for managing the whole of the EHCP process right from the initial Education, Health, Care, Needs Assessment (EHCNA) to finalising the EHCP within the 20 week timeframe.

I am also responsible for processing annual reviews and amending pre-existing EHCPs. SEN Case Officers are also responsible for maintaining communications with parents/carers and a large number of schools mainly communicating with school SENCOs.

A large bulk of our work is managing requests for specialists placement and helping parents/carers and schools to understand the process behind this. We also attend a number of SEN panels related to requests for statutory EHCNA’s and panels related to educational placements. 

We also attend a number of meetings including annual reviews, child in need meetings as well as various other professional meetings. 

What is the most challenging part of your job?

There are a number of challenges working as a SEN Case Officer. One of the key challenges is that we have such an unmanageable number of caseloads that we have to work with and are responsible for.

I also feel that other professionals do not have an understanding of what we actually do and the amount of pressure on SEN Case Officers up and down the country is astronomical. We are expected to respond to situations instantly and we do not have the capacity to be able to do this due to the huge numbers that we hold.

Another major issue for SEN Case Officers up and down the country is the lack of maintained specialist placements that are available. Often we do not have the resources to support some of the most vulnerable children and young people.

One of the things I find particularly difficult as a SEN Case Officer is not being able to give everything I want to give to the children and families that I work with due to the sheer volume of cases that I have. SEN Case Officers just have to juggle so many balls on a daily basis.

We must ensure that we comply with our statutory responsibilities in terms of drafting and finalising EHCPs, we must ensure that our communication is regular and consistent with our families (for other plus 300 cases), we must ensure good communication with our schools and manage the demand for specialist placements. 

The list goes and on. You could work every hour under the sun and as a SEN Case Officer you still wouldn’t be able to manage your workload. 

How have things changed or progressed in the SEND sector throughout your career?

I would say that the demand is higher than ever with the amount of EHCNA’s coming through. The Local Authority that I am currently working in has had over a 200% percent increase in requests for EHCNAs compared with last year. 

There is more of a demand than ever on SEN Case Officers with very limited access to resources and support.

What changes would you like to see to better support the needs of children and young people with SEND?

I would like to see a reduction in the amount of cases that SEN Case Officers are expected to cover. I think if SEN Officers' caseloads were reduced to around 100 to 150 (maximum) then services for children and families would massively improve, as the officers would be able to allocate more time for each case. 

What is the best aspect about working as a SEN Case Officer?

I have such a passion for the SEND sector. Working as a SEN Case Officer is by far the hardest job I have ever done due to the sheer volume and workload, however the impact that you can have on children, young people and their families lives is second to none.

I am motivated by knowing that when you get it right in this line of work, it can absolutely change the life of a young person with SEND and there is honestly nothing more rewarding than that. We cannot change everything as SEN Case Officers; however, I come to work every single day and do my absolute best for the children and young people I work with, even with the unrealistic demands.

The most rewarding part about this job is securing specialist placements for children that really, really need them and hearing the wonderful stories about what they have achieved. 

What have you learned so far in your career?

I have learnt so much it is rather hard to put into words. I have learnt it is so important to be honest and open with families even with the most complex cases. It is also really important not to presume that parents/carers understand the EHCP process as often they don’t.

Taking the time to explain things to parents, even if it takes 10 minutes out of your day, could mean the world to parents as they will have a better understanding of the process.

What advice would you give to someone new to the industry or considering a career as a SEN Case Officer?

There is so much advice I would give that I don’t think I could possibly write it all down! However the main points: 

  • Speak to people who are already SEN Case Officers if you can! (ask them what the job is really like on a day to day basis).
  • Get some actual experience working with children and young people with SEND and their families – it doesn’t matter whether this is in a school or not but just get some experience of working in the SEND environment so that you can truly understand what these families experience on a day to day basis.
  • Get to know your legals! Read the SEND Code of Practice (particularly chapter 9) and The Children and Families Act and know your SEND regulations! This is not something you will always receive in-depth training in and if there is one thing that you can guarantee as a SEND Officer is that you WILL be challenged!
  • Always ask questions - you will never know everything and that is OK.
  • Know that every case is different and always take into consideration the views of the child/young person - they are at the heart of everything. 
  • Listen to the families (parents/carers) - even if you can't change the outcome, just listen.

What do you hope to contribute to the special education field?

I just hope that I have and will continue to have a positive impact on the children and families that I work with. I hope that I make them feel less lonely within a complex world of SEND. I would not change working within SEND for the world!

We’d like to extend our thanks to Kelsie for taking the time out of her busy schedule to complete this interview. 

SEN Case Officer jobs

If you're looking for your next local authority SEN Case Officer job, get in touch with our SEND Divisional Manager, Richard Shorrock to find about the best temporary, interim or permanent jobs currently available on the market. Alternatively, upload your CV to be contacted about opportunities as they become available. 

Already got your next interview lined up? Check out the most common SEN Case Officer interview questions and answers to make sure you’re job interview ready!  

If you found this interview insightful, why not check out our others?

Recruiting SEN Case Officers?

As leaders within local authority SEND recruitment, we support councils all over the UK with their recruitment needs. We specialise in placing experienced interim SEN Case Officers who can confidently clear EHCP backlogs to meet the requirements of the service. 

Our Divisional Manager, Richard Shorrock, won Best Temporary Consultant at the 2023 Global Recruiter Awards for his services to SEND recruitment so you can be confident in his ability to deliver for your individual requirements. 

Share your experience

Every individual brings a unique set of experiences, thoughts, and insights to the table. We believe in giving a voice to a community of professionals to inspire positive change and champion reform in the SEND sector.  

If you work in the SEND sector and would like to share your own personal and professional experiences, we’d love to hear from you. Perhaps you have a different perspective, could offer a fresh angle, or want to challenge assumptions. 

Simply reach out to our Head of Content, Nicole Sherwood, to discuss a collaboration which makes your voice count. 

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