I was advised to get my son’s Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP) started early. This was great advice, we put the request in a few months after his autism diagnosis at 2.5 years old. I had heard lots of stories of people being turned down so was quite daunted by the process. Thankfully my son’s EHCP was granted and it all went well for us. It took a while but the process was clear and we felt supported throughout. The recommendations within the plan gave us and his Pre-School things we could focus on.
I had looked at schools in the local area and found one that seemed perfect. A resource base attached to a mainstream primary specifically for children with autism. We needed an EHCP to secure a place as it is a specialist education provider. The problem was it is a small unit the intake for our year is just 2 children. So thank you again to those who advised me to get the EHCP early. We managed to take the first place, several others had to fight over the last place.
If your child has additional educational needs over and above what most schools can provide for, or they will attend a specialist school you need an EHCP.
Education Health and Care Plans (EHCP) or EHC Plans – what is it all about?
What is an EHCP? They are legal documents that set out the education, health and care needs of a young person. It is for children or young people who have special educational needs or disability that cannot be met by support that is usually available in school or college.
EHCPs were introduced in by the Children’s and Family’s Act 2014. Previously children had SEN Statements. SEN statements should have all been transferred to EHCPs by 1st April 2018.
The plan can go up to age 25. The EHCP should include and be guided by the views, wishes and feelings of the child and parents. The child and parents should participate as fully as possible in decisions. The plan intends to support the child to achieve the best possible educational, health and care outcomes.
Who is eligible for an Education Health and Care Plan / EHCP?
All schools and early years settings should be monitoring a child’s progress. Special educational needs (SEN) support is available to any child that requires extra support. This may mean extra support for example some 1-1 inclusion support, essentially children with SEN find it harder to learn (or difficult to learn in the typical way) and need additional support. The SENCO (special educational needs co-ordinator) should put a plan in place to support children with additional needs and their progress monitored. This works well for children that needs support that is easily provided at the school or that just need support for a short period of time.
The SEN support put in place for a child should be monitored over time, if there is evidence that little or no progress is being made with the support put in place it may then be appropriate to request an assessment for an EHCP. If the child needs assistance over and above what the school or setting is able to provide or needs to attend a specialist school that supports their needs then an EHCP is required.
It is important to get the right educational support for each individual that can mean a mainstream school with additional support, a specialist school, resource base, home schooling, private school, Montessori or even dual placements.
Usually it is expected that SEN support is explored first but if your child’s needs are clear an EHCP needs assessment can be requested without SEN support stage. What has been done – has it made a difference?
How do I get an Education Health and Care Plan / EHCP?
Unfortunately we had a very unhelpful SENCO when we started our EHCP journey. Thankfully she left and a much more supportive replacement came in. This was why we started the EHCP request ourselves.
So where to start, first thing that needs to be done is a request for an assessment. The request is usually made by the school or early years setting SENCO. This does not have to be the case and anyone (such as Dr/ health visitor) with concerns for the child’s SEN can tell the LA that an EHCP is needed, once the LA gets a request for assessment it must inform the parent / guardian.
The request is usually a form that goes to the local authority (LA). The LA website in your area should have information on making a request for assessment. Some areas will also have an impartial support service that helps you with the process. If you can’t find what you are looking for call your LA and speak with the Special Educational Needs (SEN) team and they will tell you what needs to happen.
The local authority then decides if the assessment is to go ahead. Evidence of a special educational need is required . This may be a disability or a severe complex need that is expected to remain long-term. Also that it is not possible to meet the needs within existing resources and if the child has not made progress over time. It is usually a six week process for this to be considered. There should be an SEN worker from the council named who is managing the child’s case.
Our request was accepted, if yours is not there is lots of help available. If declined it is usually because the criteria is not met or there is not sufficient evidence. You should be given a reason. The LA is obliged to explain what your next options are.
If accepted the assessment process (8 weeks) begins. The LA send out requests for ‘advice’ from various professionals such as speech and language, educational psychologists and occupational therapists.
The professionals will then observe your child usually at the early years setting or school, talk to the parents and then write a report which includes advice on outcomes and support needs. If you have current reports from professionals working with your child these will be used.
The LA must ask for advice from
- Parents, child, school or early years setting, Educational Physiologist, Social care staff and health professionals working with the child such as speech and language therapist and occupational therapist.
- Anyone you ask to be contacted
I was quite apprehensive about what the reports would say and yes they did point out all the things my son couldn’t do but they also said what support he needed to be able to move forward. I actually found the reports very helpful to get advice on what we should be working on.
The reports form the basis of a draft plan written by the local authority. A copy of the draft plan goes to a panel at the local authority for approval and allocation of resources. Before a final plan is approved it is given to the family for comments. Once a plan is agreed it is a legally binding document.
You are unlikely to be given detail about costs or budget allocated to your child’s EHCP. However it is possible to apply for a personal budget where you then allocate the resources within the plan. I did not feel this was necessary as everything we needed was already included.
What if it is turned down or you disagree with decisions?
I appreciate how lucky we have been, many people have requests for assessment turned down. Others are refused an EHCP after the assessment process or disagree with the things put into the plan. The local authority has a duty to inform you why decisions have been made (make sure you get this in writing from them). They are also required to inform you what your options are. Options could be disagreement resolution or mediation tribunal. There is also right of appeal / SEND tribunal.
There is some helpful information on the Special Needs Jungle website.
Try and talk to other parents who have had similar situations – there are various parent support groups on Facebook.
What is in the Education Health and Care Plan / EHCP?
The local authority writes the EHCP, it is a legal document. The plan describes in detail a child’s needs what the child can do and have achieved, it then looks at what the child cannot do and how to support this. The plan should be clear and understandable to all involved (plain English). If the child is in year 9 it should start to be clear about transition from secondary education.
All plans should include a review date, this must be done annually. In early years settings the plan will be reviewed every six months. Realistically you should be meeting regularly with the team around the child (TAC) to keep the child’s outcome targets relevant and these should be to support the outcomes in the EHCP.
In many cases a full time 1-1 is not likely, each local authority and setting will have different opinions on use of 1-1 support. The school or educational placement is named in the EHCP. Amendment notes sent to you following changes are part of the plan.
In our EHCP we set out the need for staff working with my son to understand autism. We included that staff be trained in picture exchange communication (PECs). Our plan requires the use of visual aids to support my son and for him to receive ongoing speech and language support. The assessment process should identify the requirements for the child.
What in included in the EHCP:
- Personal details (name, address, contact details)
- One page profile
- Details about the child (Section A)
- Details about the child’s special educational needs (Section B)
- Health needs (Section C)
- Social care needs (Section D)
- The special educational provision required (this is also where the outcomes are set out – Section E – H2)
- Education placement (Section I)
- Personal budget (if you have one – Section J)
- Advice gathered during assessment (also names the lead professional – Section K)
Some sections may be blank, for example section J and C may not be relevant for your child. The plan will be the main document used by anyone working with your child.
Further Information / help.
There are lots of acronyms flying about in this post so you may want to have a look at the glossary for more information on what they mean.
You can get information about EHCPs on the government website.
The national autistic society can advise on education through their education rights service.
Independent Parental Special Education Advice charity (known as IPSEA).