Some children may require more support than a school is able to provide. If this is the case then it may be necessary to apply for an Educational Health and Care Plan (EHCP).
Currently (2020) all schools have to fund the first £6,000 of any Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) support. This budget, if it not part of an EHCP, is not however ring-fenced for this purpose nor to a particular child.
Where possible it is always better to try an informal and collaborative approach to work with the school in the first instance. Please read our Blog Post on Communicating with School. https://i-am-autism.org.uk/autism-support-communicating-effectively-with-school/
Applying for an EHCP is a straightforward process but there is a lot of misinformation out there about this process.
What is an EHCP?
An Educational Health & Care Plan (EHCP) is for children and young people between 0 and 25 who has or may have special educational needs and for who it may be necessary for the special educational provision to be made for the child/young person.
The plan sets out what your child’s needs are and what support they require.
It is a legally binding document. Relevant pieces of legislation are:
- Equality Act 2010 – http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/contents
- Children & Families Act 2014 – https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2014/6/contents
- Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014 – http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2014/1530/contents/made
Who can apply for an EHCP?
Any parent, young person or school can request an EHC Needs Assessment under section 36(1) of the Children and Families Act 2014. It does not have to be the school that requests this.
Often parents are unaware of this and rely on the school to make an application, waiting for a school to make the request can cause delays as they may have to follow Local Authority Guidance.
Under S36(8) of the Children & Families Act 2014: The Local Authority (LA) must secure an EHC Needs Assessment if the Authority is of the opinion that:
a. The child or young person has or may have special educational needs
b. It may be necessary for the special educational provision to be made for the child or young person.
What is necessary will be dependent on the needs of the child and these needs cannot be known unless they have had an assessment. This is why an assessment of needs is the important first step in the process. Sometimes parents may be told that the child won’t get anything in addition to what they are already getting, but this may not be the case when the child’s needs are fully assessed by experts.
If a parent wishes to request an EHC Needs Assessment all they need to do is write to the education department at their local authority. You can go onto your Local Authority’s website and type in ‘request an EHC Needs Assessment’ and it will generally give you the postal or email address to send your request to. You do not need, at this stage to provide any evidence.
There are some common but incorrect things that parents may be told such as
- “We don’t think there are any difficulties – The Children & Families Act 2014 says:
1. A child or young person has special educational needs if he or she has a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for him or her.
2. A child of compulsory school age or a young person has a learning difficulty or disability if he or she
a. Has a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age, or
b. Has a disability that prevents or hinders him or her from making use of facilities of a kind generally provided for others of the same age in mainstream schools or mainstream post-16 institutions
- “Your child has to be X number of years behind their peers or only at Y level of progress” – Para 6.23 Code of Practice says:
“It should not be assumed that attainment in line with chronological age means that there is no learning difficulty or disability. Some learning difficulties occur across a range of cognitive ability and left unaddressed may lead to frustration, which may manifest itself as disaffection, emotional or behavioural difficulties”.
The process as it should work
- The Local Authority have six weeks to make a decision (if the answer is no, a Parent can Appeal to the SEND Tribunal)
- At 16 weeks the LA must make a decision whether to issue EHC Plan or not (if the answer is no, a Parent can Appeal to the SEND Tribunal can be made)
- The LA must issue a Draft Plan at 18 weeks, assuming that it hasn’t been delayed by having to go to a tribunal (parent has 15 days for comment)
- Finalisation of the EHC Plan is 20 weeks from the EHC Needs Assessment request (if the parent is unhappy with the content, a Parental Appeal to the SEND Tribunal can be made)
It is sometimes necessary to write to the Local Authority in advance of these deadlines to ensure that they stick to them and avoid delays.
The timescale for Tribunals should be 12 weeks, but there can be delays due to the high volume of cases.
The EHC Needs Assessment Process
The purpose of this assessment is to gather a holistic view of the child and their needs. Therefore, assessments and evidence are required from a selection of sources:
- Parent/carer – Under the Children & Families Act 2014 parents views and opinions are enshrined in law and have to be taken into account.
- Head/SENCO – The school will be required to submit evidence this may include any assessments they have carried out, test results data/attainment levels, progress rates, behavioural issues and information of any intervention successful/unsuccessful that they have implemented
- Medical – This is often a paediatrician rather than a GP. This provides an opportunity to explore other co-occurring conditions such as ADHD, etc. It is also important to include any mental health concerns here
- Psychologist or other specialist professional assessment – This will provide evidence of ASC. It should also provide some recommendations for support strategies
- Social care – Sometimes this assessment may not be necessary but can be helpful where for example behaviour or mental health issues are having an impact
- Hearing and visual impairment where relevant – It is important to have hearing and vision assessed in order to identify any physical challenges.
- Speech and language therapist/occupational therapist – If there are issues associated with speech, language and communication or dyspraxia it can be very helpful to have these assessments as well
- It is the Local Authority’s role to facilitate these assessments, but where a parent/carer wishes to pay for a private assessment, or they already have this evidence, that is current, they may do so and such evidence will be acceptable.
The content of the EHCP
The EHC Plan is a complex twelve section document (as section H is in 2 parts).
- Section A – Parent’s/child’s views
- Section B – Child or young person’s Special Educational Needs
- Section C – Health needs related to their SEN
- Section D – Social Care needs related to their SEN
- Section E – SEN outcomes • Section F – Special Educational Provision
- Section G – Health provision
- Section H1 – Social Care provisions resulting from Section 2 of the Chronically sick & Disabled Persons Act 1970
- Section H2 – Social Care Provision reasonably required
- Section I – Educational Placement
- Section J – Personal Budget
- Section K – Appendices and Advice/Information
The Educational sections of an EHC Plan are Sections B, F & I.
Sections B, F, I and E are the only sections that have legally enforceable Right of Appeal to the SEND Tribunal.
It is therefore vital that these sections are specific. This means that where support is recommended it must say for example.
- Who is going to deliver it – what qualifications they should have
- What “named” programmes are to be used
- How much of it is going to be delivered, for example, hours per week
- How frequently it is going to be delivered
- How long it is going to be delivered for (if a specific short intervention)
- Where it is going to be delivered
It is vital that great care is taken before accepting any recommendations that they are fit for purpose. Sometimes recommendations are highly generic that in effect make them worthless in practice.
It is important before taking this route that parents work to engage with the school and communicate with the SENCO effectively. However, if your child’s needs are not being met then this is a route that is available to you.
- Remember that your child and their needs will grow and change over time.
- Therefore, EHCPs should be subject to regular reviews.
- The law states that EHCPs must be reviewed annually for children and young people over the age of 5. Children under the age of 5 will have a review of the plan every 3-6 months. This is called an annual review meeting.
- Your child or young person’s setting or school should invite you to meet with them three times a year to review the progress your child or young person is making. One of these meetings will be the annual review
What should happen at the Annual Review
- The LA must consult with the parent of the child or young person (and with the school or institution being attended if there is one) about the EHCP, and take account of their views, wishes and feelings.
- An annual review meeting must take place to discuss the EHC plan.
- Information must be gathered from parents and young people and from professionals about the EHCP and then circulated two weeks before the meeting.
- After the meeting, a report of what happened must be prepared and circulated to everyone who attended or submitted information to be discussed.
- After the meeting, the LA reviews the EHCP.
- The LA must notify the parent of the child or young person of their decision within four weeks of the meeting.
All of these steps – not just the meeting – must be followed in order for an annual review to be completed.
Asking for a Re-Assessment
- If the needs of the child or young person have changed since the last EHC plan was issued
- A different kind of help, or more help, is needed
- The child or young person should attend a different kind of school or college.
A re-assessment is an opportunity to gather new evidence to work out what support the child or young person now needs.
You need to write to the local authority asking for a re-assessment of the child or young person’s education, health and care needs, explain why you think the current EHC plan is not good enough.
The LA do not have to reassess if they have carried out an assessment within the previous six months or if they consider that a further assessment is not necessary.
There is a right of appeal if the LA refuses to carry out a re-assessment. The LA must send notice of this right of appeal when it notifies you of a refusal to re-assess. The process of appeal is the same as for refusal to carry out an EHCP Needs Assessment (SEND Tribunal).
Some parents/carers find that getting legal support can be helpful in this process, but it can be expensive. • IPSEA provide good legal advice that is free – (IPSEA) Independent Provider of Special Education Advice