Education, Health and Care Plans [often referred to as an ‘EHC Plan’ or simply ‘EHCP’] have replaced the old Statement of SEN. The EHCP has also replaced the Learning Difficulties Assessment [which applies in some post-16 settings]. The EHCP is a legal document, setting out the support that a child needs, in the same kind of way that a Statement does.
Prior to September 2014, children or young people beyond the age of 16 could only have a Statement if they were educated in a school. Under the new SEND Code of Practice, children or young people up to the age of 19 can have an EHCP providing that they remain in education or training [including apprenticeships]. In some cases, this can be extended up to age 25.
Young people who are going to university or become employed will not be eligible for an EHCP.
Who is eligible for an Education, Health and Care Plan?
The Department for Education has said that any child or young person that previously had a Statement will now have an EHCP. Any young person between the ages of 16 and 19 who currently has a Learning Difficulty Assessment may also have an EHCP. The Department for Education has been very clear that no child or young person will have their Statement or Learning Difficulty Assessment replaced by an EHCP simply because the system is changing.
Department officials have stated that the ‘trigger’ for an EHCP will be education. This means that if a young person has a health or social care need, they will not get an EHCP unless these needs impact on their education.
How does the EHCP assessment process work?
Section 9 of the new SEND Code of Practice sets out how the Department thinks that assessments should be carried out. Some of the key points made include:
- The views of children, young people and their families must be sought and they must be involved during the assessment process;
- Disruption to the family should be minimised. This includes avoiding multiple assessments and appointments. There should also be a ‘tell us once’ approach so that families do not have to repeat the same information to different professionals;
- Families should be provided with impartial information, advice and support. In the case of young people over the age of 16, a separate service of impartial information, advice and support should be available to them. Young people should also be provided with an ‘advocate’ by the local authority to make sure that their views are heard and acknowledged;
- The assessment process should be carried out in a ‘timely’ manner and it should not normally take longer than 20 weeks to issue an EHCP.
In Lincolnshire, to access an EHCP needs assessment parents, or the young person, should send their request to the local authority in the form of a letter or email:
- Post: Lincolnshire County Council, SEND Team, 9/11 The Avenue, Lincoln, LN1 1PA.
- Email: SENDenquiries@lincolnshire.gov.uk
To support parents and young people during the assessment process, Lincolnshire provides an Information, Advice and Support Service [IASS], formerly called the Parent Partnership Service.
The IASS works at ‘arm’s length’ to the Local Authority and Health Services, with independently trained staff. ‘Arm’s length’ means; acting impartially without undue influence.
The IASS provides information, advice and support for all children/young people [0-25 years old] with SEND and their families, not just those with an Education Health and Care Plan. Information, advice and support can be offered regarding the law related to SEND Education Health and Social Care law, including local policy and practice, the local offer and personal budgets.
The IASS offers support face-to-face, by telephone or online. It can also provide informal disagreement resolution if a family reaches a time when this more formal process is needed.
- The IASS can be contacted at www.lincolnshireparentpartnership.org.uk or telephone 01522 553351.
An advocate helps parents, children and young people to express their views and, if necessary, can represent and accompany them to meetings in a supportive role. They may write letters on behalf of an adult or young person, or speak on their behalf in situations where they feel unable to speak for themselves.
- In Lincolnshire, for an advocate to support a young person up to 18yrs old, contact the National Youth Advocacy Service [NYAS] via www.nyas.net, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or the freephone helpline 0808 808 1001.
- For an advocate to support to support a young person over 18yrs [and/or parents], contact Voiceability via www.totalvoicelincolnshire.org or telephone 01522 706580.
What does an Education, Health and Care Plan look like?
Section 9 of the new SEND Code of Practice sets out how the Department expects local authorities to go about writing an Education, Health and Care Plan. Some of the key points made include:
- EHCPs should be focused on the outcomes an individual child is expected to achieve. Any targets must be specific and set out what support is needed to achieve those outcomes;
- EHCPs should be clear, concise and positive. They should also be free from jargon;
- It should reflect the views of the child or young person.
Although the Department does not intend to put forward a set template or format for the new EHCP, it must include separate sections on:
- The views, interests and aspirations of the child or young person and family [section A];
- What the special educational need is [section B];
- Any health needs relating to their SEN [section C];
- Any social care needs relating to their SEN or disability [section D];
- The outcomes sought for that individual child or young person [section E];
- What support is needed for the child or young person’s SEN [section F];
- What support is needed from health or social care services [sections G and H];
- The name and type of school or other placement [section I];
- Personal Budgets [see later for more information on Personal Budgets] [section J];
- Advice and information gathered during the assessment [section K].
The new Code [after paragraph 9.69 on page 164] includes more information about what should go in each of these sections.
A blank EHCP template from the City of York Council can be viewed here. This is currently one of the only examples freely available, and is not necessarily representative of how EHCPs from other local authorities will look – although the content/layout should follow a broadly similar format across the country.
The EHCP can also include wider information about a child’s social care needs. If a child or young person has received a social care assessment under what is known as the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, then any support identified as needed under this assessment must be included in an EHCP. Other social care assessments can also feed into the EHCP, providing that it relates to the child’s special educational need. Steps should be taken to ensure sensitive information, including about particularly vulnerable children, is not disclosed more widely than it needs to be.
Who prepares the Education, Health and Care Plans?
Local authorities are encouraged to adopt a ‘key working’ approach whereby the family has a single point of contact. A key worker’s role is usually to support the family by liaising with the different professionals involved in any assessments of the child and to co-ordinate everything.
In Lincolnshire, a SEND ‘key working’ service is provided by the Early Support Care Co-ordination Service [ESCO]. This service provides a single point of contact for children/young people and parents to help co-ordinate early engagement and support of relevant services across education, health and care. This service is for any child/young person with SEND and their families, with or without having an Education, Health and Care Plan in place. Early Support is a way of working that helps to identify children/young people’s additional needs as early as possible.
- ESCO can be contacted via www.lincolnshire.gov.uk/esco or telephone 01522 782111.
The new SEND Code of Practice also indicates that families may, in addition, receive support from an ‘independent supporter’ from the voluntary or private sector. Independent supporters are intended to help families through the process, and would be someone who does not work for the local authority. The nature of the support provided is likely to vary from family to family. The Department has funded the Council for Disabled Children to ensure families have access to Independent Supporters across England.
How is an Education, Health and Care Plan enforced?
Statutory rights that existed in respect of a Statement will remain and, in many respects, you are able to challenge an EHCP at a SEN and Disability Tribunal in the same way that you might have previously challenged a Statement.
Parents will be required to consider mediation if they wish to challenge a local authority at a SEN and Disability Tribunal. Once a parent has decided whether or not to undergo mediation, they can take a case to Tribunal but this can only happen after a ‘certificate’ has been issued by a mediation adviser to confirm that mediation was considered. Mediation can consider the health and social care aspects of an EHCP, as well as education.
The mediation or any discussions about it must be conducted with someone ‘independent’ from the local authority. The Department has been clear that any disputes must still be resolved within the same timescales, even where mediation takes place.
Mediation is not necessary if the appeal to Tribunal is about disability discrimination or about a dispute over whether a child should go to a particular school or placement.
If you move home, the EHCP can be ‘transferred’ and the local authority in your new area will be required to provide the same support as in your previous home area. However, if your Statement requires your child to be placed in a certain school, this can be reviewed, particularly if you now live some distance from the school.
Does an Education, Health and Care Plan provide legal entitlements to speech and language therapy?
Speech and language therapy can be treated as educational provision even though it is often provided by health services. Judges have agreed that speech and language therapy is vital for children with SEN. This is legally set out in ‘case law’.
Where a health or social care service has the purpose of educating or training a child or young person, it must be regarded as special educational provision, even if it is not provided by an education service. This means that local authorities must legally ensure this is provided if it is set out in an EHCP.
What will happen to an Education, Health and Care Plan when my child turns 16?
At age 16 your child will become responsible for their EHCP and local authorities are expected to engage directly with your child, unless they believe that your child does not have the ‘mental capacity’ to make informed decisions. The new Code recognises that many young people will still wish to involve their parents in any decisions on their EHCP. The Code also stresses that young people must receive the information, advice and support they need to participate in decisions about their EHCP.