Everything You Need to Know About Education, Health and Care Plans
If you’ve been wondering what an Education Health and Care plan (EHCP) is, then look no further.
In this post we will tell you all about EHCPs, who they are for and the process involved in completing one.
What is an EHCP?
In 2014, the government introduced Education Health and Care plans (EHCPs) across England as the new system for assessing and supporting children and young adults with significant Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.
The 2014 reform introduced some important changes, including:
- Addressing health and social needs rather than just education
- An increase in the age of support from 0-18 to 0-25 years
- An objective to involve families in the assessment process, focussing on a child/young person centred approach.
Many children and young adults currently have a Statement of Special Educational Needs (SEN). All these SEN statements are due to be converted to EHCPs by July 2018.
When and how to request an assessment
All schools have a special educational needs budget which can provide additional help for children who require more support, e.g., with reading and writing. Often the cost of extra support can be met by the school’s budget; however, when the child’s needs go beyond what the school can offer, a request for an Education, Health and Care assessment can be made.
Anyone who thinks an assessment is necessary can lodge a request with their local authority; this could include teachers, parents, health professionals or a person who knows the child/young adult well. Young adults can also make a personal request for an assessment if they are aged from 16-25.
Requests can also be made for pre-school-age children even if they are not yet attending an institution, such as a nursery or childminder. With this younger age group there may already be a professional network working with the child, such as a speech and language therapist, portage worker, physiotherapist, and the child might be under the care of a paediatrician. Any of these professionals may identify a need for an Education, Health and Care assessment.
As the Education, Health and Care process takes a holistic approach, the child/young adult, parents or carers will usually have a meeting with their professional network before lodging a request. This way, they can gather information about the child’s needs, looking at both their strengths and areas of difficulty. All the information is submitted to the local authority along with any reports. This could include reports from medical professionals (paediatrician, physiotherapist, occupational therapist, speech therapist, health visitor), school reports, an educational psychology report, portage report, a social worker assessment or information from other professionals involved.
Assessment requests must generally be made in writing, and forms will vary from one local authority to another. When parents or a young adult make a request, they are exempt from this form-filling requirement; however, they may find it helpful to seek advice on the best way forward. Contact a Family is one of the organisations that can offer free advice and support on EHCPs.
The assessment process
After information is sent for an assessment request, the local authority may ask for additional reports about the child/young adult from professionals involved in their care. The local authority will have been provided with a contact list of professionals involved; however, if someone is new to the network who could now contribute to the assessment, or there is new information about the child/young person’s needs, the parents should inform the local authority. The local authority can then request further reports if it is considered that this information will support the assessment.
Once the local authority have all the reports and assessment information, a decision will be made at a panel with representatives usually consisting of professionals from education, health and social care. The panel representatives are very unlikely to have met the child/young adult; therefore, their needs should be clearly and comprehensively detailed in writing. The panel will then make a collective decision if the child/young adult requires support above the level that may already be in place.
An assessment does not automatically mean that the child/young adult will be granted an Education, Health and Care plan.
How a plan is formed
If the local authority agrees to an Education, Health and Care plan, further information is then prepared to complete it. The EHCP is a legal document that describes three areas: educational, health and social care needs. The document is divided into sections with the aim of providing clear, accurate information about the child or young adult’s needs and the support needed in order for them to reach their full potential.
After discussions with parents and carers, the child/young adult and the relevant professional network, the local authority puts together an initial draft of the EHCP. Parents then have 15 days to express their views about the content of the plan. If they feel changes should be made or that there are inaccuracies, they need to discuss them with their local authority at this point. If the child/young adult is not already within an educational institution (e.g., nursery, school, college) the local authority will provide information about how to find one. The local authority will then consult with the institution before adding it to the plan.
It is a complex process and the thought of embarking on it may be overwhelming to parents, carers and young adults. But help is at hand. A lead professional, who may already be within the child/young person’s professional network, can provide guidance through each stage. A parent can ask a professional if they can take on this role, but more commonly this can be decided in a Team Around the Child (TAC) meeting, with the parents, child/young person and professional network present. There are also organisations that provide impartial support e.g. Information, Advice and Support Services or Independent Support providers.
What happens next?
The child/young adult receives the support they need to work towards the outcomes stated in the Education, Health and Care plan.
For children under the age of 5, EHCPs are reviewed every six months; for those over the age of 5, annual meetings are held to formally review the content of the EHCP. The local authority will advise when reviews are due to take place.
Local authorities are legally required to operate to strict deadlines on EHCPs. They must:
- Reply to an assessment request: within six weeks from its date of receipt
- Complete an Education, Health and Care assessment: within six weeks
- Issue the final EHCP: within 20 weeks from the date of the assessment request.
What to do if a request is turned down
The local authority can decline a request for an assessment as they may decide the child/young adult’s needs are already being adequately met, and there is not enough evidence to show them otherwise.
This decision can be appealed through an independent tribunal within two months of receiving the response.
The Tribunal Helpline at Independent Parental Special Education Advice (IPSEA) provides free help and advice about the appeals process.
Do you live in Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales?
For information about the support available in these areas Contact a Family is a great source of information and it operates a free helpline.
Written by Penelope Ball, Fundamentally Children Associate
This post was written by Penelope Ball