What is an EHCP?
Short for Education Health and Care Plan, an EHCP is a long document that describes a child’s special educational needs (SEN) as agreed by parents, school and the local authority, and ensures that they are met.
It replaced the Statement of Educational Needs in 2014 and covers a child from birth until the age of 25.
In theory, the plan identifies educational, health and social needs and ensures support is in place so that the best possible support is available for a child. It should be written in a way that makes it clear, to parents, young people, schools, colleges and LAs, who is required to do what, when it has to happen and how often it should be reviewed
Additionally, the plan identifies which therapies your child will receive such as speech and language therapy (SALT) or occupational therapy (OT). LINK to THERAPY SECTION
The plan should also acknowledge your child’s right to a social life, things like attending after-school clubs, or weekend provision.
Don’t allow people to tell you that your son or daughter doesn’t need one. If your child has a special educational need, having an EHCP can be the only way to access the support they need.
It’s also worth remembering that many specialist resource provisions will only accept children if they have a diagnosis as well as an EHCP.
You will wish you hadn’t started the process, at least once, but remember why you’re doing it – to secure your child has the best provision while at school and/or college.
HOW TO REQUEST AN EHCP
You request an EHCP via the local authority. Doctors, health visitors, teachers, parents and family friends are all entitled to make a request on your child’s behalf.
Once a young person is over 16, they can request an assessment themselves.
Gathering as much evidence in the form of reports from your child’s school, nursery or childminder, doctors’ assessments, paediatrician reports and educational psychologist reports will help the process significantly. All of the experts involved in your child’s life will be used to being asked for such evidence.
You also need to include details of what life at home is like. Your evidence is just as useful as the professionals and outlines areas of concern that schools might not be aware of.
Make sure that you keep copies of any documents that you hand over to the LA – whether they’re electronic or paper versions.
It is much easier if your child’s place of education is supporting you. Schools have a lot of experience in applying for the plans and know exactly what’s needed. LIase with a SENCO at mainstream school. In special needs schools there might be one person responsible for liaising with parents and the local authority over EHCPs. There are many organisations who offer independent support in the best way to write EHCPS. It is of course possible to go it alone.
Once you’ve put in your request to the local authority, they have a legal obligation to acknowledge it within six weeks to confirm that they will carry out an assessment of your child.
Within that time frame, you should receive the details of your local authority case worker.
PARENT TIP: It’s worth dropping your case worker an email and trying to build a rapport with them – they will be an important contact going forward.
WHAT IF THE LOCAL AUTHORITY REFUSES TO ASSESS
If the local authority write to you to say they’re not going to carry out an assessment they should include details on how to appeal to the SEND tribunal.
It is parents who trigger the appeal – although hopefully school will support you.
Appealing the decision is worth it. According to research, more than 90 per cent of parents who take a local authority to tribunal over refusal to assess win their case.
There are claims that some local authorities make it their policy to deny all assessment requests just to see who will go to the effort of appealing the decision.
If possible, find out on what grounds they are basing their judgement. Paperwork gets lost and it could be something as simple as a document wasn’t included – when you know it was and can simply send it again.
Most appeals are done on paper alone so chances are you won’t be able to attend the hearing.
Independent Parental Special Education Service (IPSEA) do phenomenal work in supporting parents through the EHCP process. Their team are fierce and many local authorities back down as soon as they know IPSEA is involved.
Their website is full of useful information on how to appeal any decision.
If it’s agreed that an assessment will be carried out, the local authority will arrange for an Educational Psychologist (EP) to visit your child. This might be at home or at school.
Although an Educational Psychologist might already be involved in your child’s care, for the purpose of the EHCP, you’ll need an additional visit from an EP which is organised by the local authority.
Be aware that there is a nationwide shortage of EPs meaning the assessment might be delayed. You have the right to complain about this.
Whereas a few years ago an EP would visit a child three or four times, due to funding pressures your child will be visited once.
The EP should spend time (at least a couple of hours) assessing your child – watching them play, interact, attempt simple tasks and so on. They then have an in-depth conversation with you.
This is time for you to tell the EP why you feel an EHCP is important for your child. It can be a very emotional meeting, so be prepared.
This visit is very important. The EP’s findings will form the basis of what’s included in the EHCP.
PARENT TIP: Write down everything you can about your child’s condition and the impact that has on your family BEFORE the EP comes round. That way you won’t forget anything when they are there.
The EP won’t be able to confirm at this point whether the EHCP will be granted. Their job is to gather evidence, talk to you and make recommendations.
The local authority should tell you within 16 weeks whether an EHCP is going to be issued.
If they deny an EHCP, you have the right to appeal. Their letter should include details on how to go about that.
If possible, contact your child’s caseworker at the LA and ask for a meeting so they can discuss exactly why the plan has been refused.
You might discover, it was because of something simple that can easily be resolved.
If you’re unsure of anything, contact IPSEA who will offer support.
A tribunal might sound like drastic action, but if you’re unhappy with the outcome you have the right to appeal against the LA. The SEND Tribunal is an independent national tribunal which hears parents’ and young peoples’ appeals against the LA.
Although there might be some differences with your plan, depending on which LA you come under, the basic principles are the same.
Under Regulation 12 of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014 (the “SEN Regs”), an EHC plan must have the following sections:
- Section A: the views, interests and aspirations of the child and his parents or the young person;
- Section B: the child or young person’s special educational needs (“SEN”);
- Section C: health care needs which relate to their SEN;
- Section D: social care needs which relate to their SEN or to a disability ;
- Section E: the outcomes sought for the child or young person;
- Section F: the special educational provision required to meet their SEN;
- Section G: any health care provision reasonably required by the learning difficulties or disabilities which result in the child or young person having SEN;
- Section H: any social care provision required from social services under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970, and/or reasonably required by the learning difficulties or disabilities which result in the child or young person having SEN;
- Section I: the name of the school or other institution to be attended by the child or young person, and the type of that institution (or just the type if no specific institution is named);
- Section J: details of any direct payment which will be made;
- Section K: copies of all of the advice and information obtained as part of the EHC needs assessment.
There is an excellent checklist for filling in EHCPs written by the legal support group ISPEA, here: https://www.ipsea.org.uk/Handlers/Download.ashx?IDMF=afd8d11f-5f75-44e0-8f90-e2e7385e55f0
You will be asked to list all the professionals involved in your child’s care, doctors, therapists, social workers etc. Make sure you list EVERYONE. With high-needs children, it can come as a shock to realise you are effectively managing teams of 20 or more.
Section A – personal statement.
There probably won’t be enough room to write down all of the information relating to your child, so create your own document on your computer and attach it.
Start with diagnosis and the impact of that on your family. Spell out at length how your child’s condition manifests itself. You make it as emotional as you feel comfortable with.
For example: “Taylor was a much-wanted second child. The pregnancy was normal but he arrived six weeks early. He was rushed into intensive care. After extensive tests we were told he had a rare genetic condition. The symptoms of this include scoliosis, learning disabilities and growth issues. Taylor has difficulty swallowing. He has delayed fine motor skills and trouble walking. His diagnosis meant we had very little time for his older sister, as we were always in hospital or assisting Taylor with everything. We have no close family living near us so we have to rely on friends to help out with his sister.”
Detail your child’s strengths and weaknesses.
PARENT TIP: To drive home the impact of your child’s condition on famly relationships give an example of a bad day in your family’s home, and an example of a good day.
If your child is able, it is important they contribute to this section so their wishes are heard.
After this, breaking the information down into headings related to the four areas of need detailed in the Code of Practice will help.
Cognition and Learning
Focus on the things that your child can consistently do, rather than the things they can sometimes do.
You might include details of their reading, writing and mathematical abilities and say something along the lines of; my child can count to 30, and can write simple sentences. With support they can count to 100, and attempt more complicated writing.
Communication and interaction
Describe your child’s strengths and difficulties. You might say something such as; although my child enjoys being with other children, they are easily overwhelmed which can cause them to shut down or lash out at others.
Sensory and physical
If your child has sensory integration issues, list them here. Give detailed information about what happens if they’re experiencing sensory overload.
Perhaps; my child can’t tolerate anyone being too close to them. If they become overwhelmed they might push whoever is nearest or try to run away.
If your child has a physical disability, include as much information that is necessary and the implications the disability has on your child. You might include details of the adaptations that you’ve made at home so that the reader gets a full picture.
Social, emotional and mental health
Highlight things such as mood swings, what causes anxiety and how aware they are of others in this section.
Information about their level of empathy and how keen they are to integrate with other children should be written down. If your child is very happy with their own company and doesn’t have a great desire to mix, there’s no point trying to force the issue.
Also mention if your child is prone to panic attacks and/or meltdowns – and what might be the triggers.
Self care and independence
If your child is able to go to the toilet independently then write this in. Your child might require one to one assistance in school, equally, you don’t want an over-enthusiastic support worker to help your child do something that they’re capable of doing themselves.
You might find it useful to use the following sub-headings
Include details of any health concerns that your child has and the impact they have on daily life.
If your child has to have lots of appointments, this will impact on their school life, so include the details.
If your child can balance, jump, run, catch a ball and skip write it down. If they can do these things but with support, make a note of that as it can be something that the school can work towards achieving.
HOPES FOR THE FUTURE:
Think about the long term and short term goals for your child. This can be very emotive, but that’s a good thing as it ensures that the people reading the plan see your child as a person, not just a case file. Would you like them to become as independent as possible? To keep learning? To have the social life appropriate for their age group?
Section B – my SEN
It is broken down into the following headings
My current needs (which includes details of diagnosis)
My current attainment and progress
My strengths and difficulties which will be listed in priority order
It is important to include ALL needs in this section because they will relate to provision set out in Section F.
Section C – health
My known health/medical conditions
The health/medical conditions that relate to my SEN
If I have an individual health care plan, this will be held and updated in my education setting
Section D – social care information if applicable
Section E – my outcomes
Three to six should be included.
Section F – Provisions relating to communication and interaction, cognition and learning, social, emotional and mental health and sensory and/or physical. These must cover all of the needs set out in Section B.
Section G – Health provision required
Section H – Social care provision required
Section I – the name and type of my setting, school or college
Section J – How will my plan be funded (included any direct payments)
This includes details of education funding for provision relating to outcomes, health funding for provision and social care funding.
The plan needs to be certified and details of the next annual review should be included too.
Section K – relates to appendices attached to the plan.
Once a plan has been agreed, the local authority will create a draft plan and send you a copy.
Make sure you read it properly and make notes on anything that is incorrect or missing. This is your chance to create a wish list of services that you’d like for your child. View it as a case of if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
You have 15 days to comment and to request a particular school or college.
Your local authority has 20 weeks from the date of the assessment to give you the final plan.
Once you’ve put in your request to the local authority, they have a legal obligation to acknowledge your request within six weeks to confirm that they will carry out an assessment of your child.
The local authority should tell you within 16 weeks whether an EHCP is going to be made for your child.
The process is meant to take a maximum of 20 weeks from start to finish.
Your child’s school legally has to abide by the plan and can be penalised if they’re not doing so.
If you don’t feel that your child’s needs are being met sufficiently, ask for a meeting with the school to discuss your concerns.
If you don’t get anywhere with that, contact the local authority.
You will get the chance to review the plan each year if your child is over five. If they’re under five, the EHCP should be reviewed every three to six months.
PARENT TIP: If your child attends an SEN school it might be a systematic failure at the school that for example they can’t provide therapies. Get in touch with other parents to find out if they are having the same issues. Together you might have a louder voice to bring attention to the problem.
Managing 19-25 year olds’ plans
Once they are over 16 your child becomes a ‘young person’. This gives them the right to make their own decisions about their support, including the right to appeal to tribunal, control a personal budget and decide where they want to be educated.
Your child may still want your support in making decision and some young people will need their parents to continue to advocate for them and make their decisions because they are not able to.
Although many young people will complete their education by age 19, some want to go to college or do an apprenticeship. If that’s the case, the EHCP should cover the years up until 25.
Colleges should support students with SEN in a similar way that schools do. They need to follow the EHCP and if they don’t, you have the right to complain to the local authority.
Be aware, that a local authority may cease a plan for a 19-to-25-year-old if it decides that it is no longer necessary for the EHCP to be maintained. This is something that needs to be clarified in the yearly review meetings before the young person turns 19.
If you decide that you want to go to university, this is classed as higher education and you’ll need to apply for Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSA).
The review process
Your child’s EHCP has to be reviewed once a year. This takes place at a meeting called an “Annual Review”, often at your child’s school.
Before the annual review you should receive an invitation to attend a meeting from your child’s school at least two weeks before. If you don’t receive the required notice, you are entitled to ask them to postpone the meeting.
You ought to receive relevant reports two weeks before the meeting which will give you the chance to review them and make notes. Again, if you don’t receive the required notice, you are entitled to ask the school to postpone the meeting.
During the meeting you’ll have the chance to consider your child’s progress towards the outcomes that have been listed on the EHCP. You might change some of them if they’ve been achieved and add in new outcomes.
Once the meeting has been concluded, a written report should be circulated setting out the recommendations or any amendments to be made. This report should be sent out two weeks after the meeting.
Within four weeks of the review meeting the LA will decide whether to maintain the plan in its current form, amend it or cease to maintain it.
If the LA fails to keep to the deadline they are in breach of the law.
At any time in the process, if the local authority aren’t meeting the targets you have the right to challenge them.
You can also challenge them about their decision not to carry out an assessment, their decision not to create a plan, what support is included in the plan, the school that is named and if they decide to cease to maintain the plan.
Each local authority should give details on how to appeal or challenge their decisions.
If you’re not getting anywhere when dealing with the LA, you might be in the position of facing a tribunal.
Before launching a tribunal case, you are encouraged to consider mediation. This isn’t something you have to do – you can say, thanks but no thanks. However, you do need a mediation certificate to submit with your paperwork.