We discuss EHCPs and EHC needs assessments and consider what the law says one is entitled to. We also cover when the process is delayed or refused and offer sources of help.
Many anxious parents ask for our help with Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs).
We hope to help parents of children with special educational needs (SEN) by covering the main aspects of EHCPs in this blog.
An EHCP or Education, Health and Care Plan assists children and young people (aged up to 25) who have SEN, including disabilities. The government introduced these plans in 2014. They are used to improve the outcomes for children that require extra support and assistance in the current school system.
EHCPs bring each aspect of health, social care, and education together to promote the best outcomes for children and young people. They replace the previous statement of special educational needs.
A child or young person requires an Education, Health and Care (EHC) needs assessment to gain an EHCP. Local authorities (LAs) write these assessments.
EHCP’s are available to children and young people up to 25 with SEN, whose needs cannot reasonably be provided through available resources at an early years provider, school or post-16 institution. Most children and young people with SEN are not expected to need an EHCP.
The Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice (the “Code”) defines special educational needs (SEN) as follows:
A child or young person has SEN if they have a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for him or her.
A child of compulsory school age or a young person has a learning difficulty or disability if he or she:
To also read more about SEN and SEND definitions, please have a look at this popular blog: What does SEN or SEND really mean?
A parent initiates the process by approaching their local authority (LA) with a request for an EHCP. The LA has 6 weeks to determine whether to advance the process by carrying out an EHC needs assessment. In considering whether an EHC needs assessment is necessary, the LA should consider whether there is evidence that despite the educational setting having taken relevant steps to meet the child’s needs, expected progress has not been made.
Note that young people over the age of 16 and certain other professionals, for example, a teacher, can also initiate the EHCP process.
The LA will determine whether or not an individual needs an EHC plan in place by carrying out an EHC needs assessment.
The EHC needs assessment may not result in an EHCP being issued. In this case, the report may decide that the child’s school or college can meet their needs without one.
An EHC needs assessment is the first step to securing an EHCP, following a request for an EHCP. The process of an EHC needs assessment involves collating information and advice on a child or young person’s needs. Your LA carries this out. A school or college cannot undertake the assessment or ask for payment for any part of it.
There is a list of information required to be set out in Regulation 6(1) of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014. This includes:
If your child is hearing or speech impaired, you should seek advice from a qualified person.
If following an EHC needs assessment, it is necessary for special educational provision to be made through an EHCP, the LA must prepare one.
The process from the first request to a completed EHCP should take no longer than 20 weeks (other than in exceptional circumstances). A draft EHCP should be issued within 14 weeks to allow 15 days for a parent to study the draft and request a school or education provider to be named in it. The party named also has 15 days within which to respond to it being named in the EHCP.
The LA must respond within 6 weeks of an EHCP request to advise whether it believes an EHC needs assessment is necessary.
If following an EHC needs assessment, the LA determines not to issue an EHCP, it has 16 weeks from the EHCP request date to inform parents.
See a useful summary of the EHCP timeline below:
If your assessment is delayed, contact the LA to enquire about the reasons for the delay. If they fail to provide an explanation, contact your local SENDIASS (SEND Information Advice and Support Service) to seek advice.
The LA must send a draft plan within 14 weeks of the request for assessment and the completed EHCP within 20 weeks of the initial request. If it fails to do so, you may write a complaint addressed to the most senior person at the LA.
If a child or young person has or may have SEN and it may be necessary to have a special educational provision made in an EHCP, they are entitled to an EHC needs assessment, regardless of the level of attainment. If the LA refuses the request for an EHC needs assessment, the parent or young person has the right to appeal to the First-tier Tribunal.
When considering an appeal from a parent or young person, the First-tier Tribunal must consider the Code. The tribunal will expect LAs and educational settings to explain any relevant departure from the Code.
The LA should give reasons for refusal. It should also inform parents of the right to appeal this decision and the timeline for doing so. Appeals are made in the SEND Tribunal under section 51(2)(a) of the Children and Families Act.
Before an appeal, it is advisable to speak to a mediation advisor. The LA refusal letter should include the advisor’s information. You should get a certificate to show you have done so. You can contact IPSEA (Independent Provider of Special Education Advice) to ask them how to prepare for the mediation process. The deadline by which the SEND Tribunal must receive your appeal is two months from the date of the LA letter or one month from a mediation certificate.
You should state reasons for the appeal in your form and collect supporting evidence for your case. Such evidence can include teachers’ comments, documentation from school, previous assessments, advice from educational psychologists, or your own observations. This evidence can support your case that the appropriate educational help for your child relies on the provision of an EHCP and that without it, the child’s needs are unlikely to be met. You should submit the form as soon as possible. More information, together with email templates for information requests to build your case, can be found here.
Once received, an EHCP is reviewed annually to determine further needs or modifications to the plan.
A review meeting is organised between everyone involved in the child or young person’s education, including someone from the LA’s SEN department. The school may also invite other people, such as a speech and language therapist, advisory teacher, tutor or teaching assistant. The meeting will consider the progress made and include any recommendations for changes to the plan alongside setting targets. This process may also determine whether the child or young person still requires an EHCP.
The LA has 4 weeks following this meeting to make decisions based on the recommendations. It could either make amendments, leave it as it is, or end the plan.
When you have an EHCP, your LA will set out the funding for your child, which is called a personal budget. Personal budgets are typically arranged with the school, and money is paid directly to them to provide extra support and assistance in the school setting. Extra provision is generally delivered by one-to-one in-person support or via online tuition. Additional help is available at all curriculum levels from Reception to A-Level.
The personal budget is an amount of money that covers the cost of implementing the support and outcomes, as noted in the plan. This money is not available unless you have an EHCP.
In some cases, LA’s may make direct payments to parents or caregivers to arrange this provision independently. The LA may determine which of the money to issue as a direct payment. Still, they can refuse this request if they deem the provision cannot be met appropriately. A refusal can also happen if the direct payment negatively affects other services provided by the EHCP.
Parents have the right to choose an education provider to carry out the plan. They have the option to select a third-party provider that aligns with the EHCP and who can support them. This is a crucial part of the Code, which provides parents with a greater say in their child’s education and resource allocation.
Bright Heart Education currently acts as an LA-approved education provider for some of its students’ EHCPs. Consequently, we can support parents during their difficult journey and in delivering the plans.
You can arrange direct payment by your LA to the educational provider as agreed in the plan.
The EHCP must follow the code set out by Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014. The plan must include specific sections, and if the child is in Year 9 or above, this plan must also contain strategies to help them prepare for adult life and independent living.
An EHCP must contain the following sections:
There is a legal requirement to keep everything in each section separate so that the provision of funding is clear. Section F of the EHCP is critically important, as it determines the key area of the provision. If this section is unclear, it may cause delays to funding or, in some cases, it may mean support is not received.
When you receive a draft EHCP, it is essential to check the details and communicate any issues within 15 days. It is crucial to ensure that the special educational provision in Section F meets all the needs outlined in Section B.
If you are not happy with any aspect of the plan, you can ask for areas to be changed, but only if you have a draft EHCP or an upcoming review. If a child or young person’s circumstances change dramatically (such as if they get worse and need additional provision), you can request an early annual review or a re-assessment of their needs.
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