What is an Education, Health and Care Plan and how does my child get one?

The Children and Families Act 2014 came into force in September 2014. It completely changed how children with special educational needs (SEN) are now supported.

Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP) are available for children with the most challenging special educational needs. They replace the Statement of Special Educational Needs or Statement of SEN. An Education, Health and Care Plan is legally enforceable and sets out your child’s special educational needs and the provision they need in education, health and social care to cater for those needs.

In this article we look at the support that children with SEN can expect to receive at school and when it may be necessary to seek an Education, Health and Care Plan. We also explore how children who currently have a Statement of Special Educational Needs will be moved to an Education, Health and Care Plan.

Children aged 0 – 5

Nurseries are required to use “best endeavours” to ensure that the SEN of their pupils are identified, and catered for, as quickly as possible. They must also have a detailed SEN policy in place. They should also explain to you what support is being made available for your child and prepare a report detailing how your child is being supported and how that support is being reviewed and monitored.

The local authority is responsible for ensuring that nurseries have sufficient funding and resources to support SEN. The Code of Practice requires that the local authority makes sufficient funding available for placements to provide the support they consider necessary.

All nurseries must ensure that they work with you closely and following the “assess, plan, do and review” approach.

  • Assess
    This means that the nursery should work with you and the class teacher to observe any difficulties that your child may have. Progress should be monitored closely and if specialist assessment is required, the placement should secure it. If that assessment can only be completed by an external professional, your consent is required.
  • Plan
    If the placement decides to make SEN support available, it should inform you of this decision. It should then work with you to decide the outcomes that should be sought and the support that will be provided to reach those outcomes.
  • Do
    The placement will retain responsibility for implementing the support. This will normally be through your child’s key person at the placement. The key person will also have the support of the placement’s Special Educational Needs Coordination Officer (SENCO) to ensure day-to-day delivery of the support is happening effectively.
  • Review
    You should meet with the key worker, SENCO and any other professionals who work with your child at school to discuss progress. The date for the meeting will be agreed during the ‘plan’ stage. During these meetings you will discuss any progress that has been made towards the outcomes and discuss what changed to the outcomes and what provision may be needed.

Children over 5 – “Additional SEN Support”

Prior to September 2014, three tiers of support for children/young people (CYP) with SEN existed, these were School Action, School Action Plus and Statement of SEN.

The Children & Families Act 2014 has removed these three tiers. From 1 September 2014, CYP with SEN are supported by either “Additional SEN Support” or an Education, Health and Care Plan. Your local authority will contribute to the preparation of the EHCP, whereas Additional SEN Support is solely the responsibility of your child’s school.

The Additional SEN Support scheme requires that each pupil with SEN is entitled to receive up to £6,000 worth of funding from their school per annum. With this budget the school/college is expected to provide each child and young person with the SEN support that they require.

Additional SEN Support should follow the “assess, plan, do and review” as that required of nurseries (see above).

What if the nursery / school support is insufficient?

If your child’s SEN goes beyond that which can be supported by the school through Additional SEN Support then your local authority should assess their educational, health and social care needs. This is an Education, Health and Care (EHC) needs assessment.

Whilst £6,000 is available to support each child as Additional SEN Support, the Department for Education has made it clear that this is not a threshold to obtain an assessment. This means that you will not have to show that more than £6,000 worth of support is required in order to obtain an EHC needs assessment.

A request for an EHC needs assessment may be made to the local authority by you or the educational placement. Any other person may also inform the local authority that they believe that your CYP has SEN.

Education, Health and Care (EHC) needs assessment

If a child or young person has SEN, they may need an EHC needs assessment.

The EHC needs assessment is a detailed assessment completed by the local authority to determine what your child or young person’s needs are and the additional support they need. The trigger for the assessment is that your CYP has SEN. If, for example, your CYP has health needs, but no SEN, the local authority can refuse to conduct an EHC needs assessment.

Specific people can request an EHC assessment, these are:

  • Parents
  • A young person (or someone on their behalf if they lack capacity)
  • A person on behalf of a school (ideally with your agreement)

If the local authority agrees to complete an EHC assessment, they must tell you in writing. The local authority has six weeks to decide whether to conduct an assessment, following your request. If the local authority decides to complete an EHC assessment, it must complete this within 16 weeks of your request.

The assessment will:

  • Establish and record your views, interests and aspirations
  • Provide a full description of your child or young person’s educational needs, health needs and care needs
  • Establish outcomes for your child or young person in education, health and care based on their needs and aspirations
  • Specify the provision required and how education, health and care services will coordinate to cater for the identified needs.

You will be asked to contribute to the EHC needs assessment. It is strongly advisable that you seek advice before completing the contribution as it may well later be relied upon by the local authority in making its decision and in any appeal later on.

The local authority must seek information and advice from the following:

  1. The child’s parent or the young person
  2. Educational advice (usually from head teacher or principal of post-16 institution)
  3. Medical advice and information from a health care professional
  4. Psychological advice and information from an educational psychologist
  5. Advice and information in relation to social care
  6. Advice and information from any other person the local authority thinks is appropriate
  7. Where the CYP is in or beyond year 9, advice and information in relation to provision to assist the child or young person in preparation for adulthood and independent living
  8. Advice and information from any person the child’s parent or young person reasonably requests that the local authority seek advice from.

If advice from any of the above already exists, the local authority must not seek further advice if you, the expert and the local authority are satisfied that the existing advice is sufficient. It is strongly advised that you seek advice before agreeing to this.

After the EHC needs assessment, the local authority will decide whether to issue an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP).

Refusal to issue an EHCP

If the local authority decides that it will not issue an EHCP you will have a right of appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST).

Full information about appeals to SENDIST can be found here.

Agreement to issue an EHCP

If the local authority decides that it is necessary to issue an EHCP it must issue a Proposed EHCP. You will be given 15 days to make any comments about the document and to express a preference about school or college.

Once the local authority receives your comments back, and details of which school you want, it has 15 days to consult with that school/college and then to issue a Final EHCP.

If you are unhappy about the content of the EHCP itself, you will have another right of appeal to the Tribunal.

What will the Education Health and Care Plan look like?

The EHCP is intended to give a comprehensive explanation of the education, health and social care needs your child or young person has. It must also detail the services that are necessary to cater for those needs. All provision must flow from the special educational needs.

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 is preparing slightly differently presented EHCPs. The content of the EHCP is as follows:

  • A – Views, interests and aspirations of the child or young person
  • B – The special educational needs
  • C – The health needs
  • D – Social care needs
  • E – Outcomes sought for the child
  • F – SEN provision needed
  • G – Health care provision
  • H1 & H2 – Social care provision
  • I – School placement
  • J – Personal Budget
  • K – List of advice (old appendices)

Outcomes

Outcomes are ‘new’ to the system of SEN support. Whilst Objectives existed within the Statements of SEN, Outcomes are quite different.

An Outcome is the “benefit or difference made to an individual as a result of an intervention”. Outcomes can relate to education, health and/or social care. It is important that Outcomes are not confused with the child or young person’s aspirations. For example, an aspiration to secure employment or to get married would not be an Outcome which should feature in this section.

Outcomes should be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound.)

Outcomes are particularly important as when they are achieved, they trigger your CYP’s EHCP coming to an end. As a result, Outcomes should be discussed at every review meeting and agreed. It is important to note that Outcomes cannot be challenged to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal and only a Judicial Review is available. This is a complex proceeding and it is advisable to speak with a specialist solicitor before taking any action.

I am so happy at the outcome, I don't think we would have had such a comprehensive service from any other law firm, and you took the worry away...I do not regret a single second of the whole process, apart from the bit before you got involved. 

James' mother, Boyes Turner client

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