If your child has special needs, then an Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan may be put in place.  This Plans replaced the Statement of Special Educational Needs that was issued before September 2015.  The EHC Plan is a formal legal document which sets out:

  • The needs of your child
  • How these needs should be met
  • A suitable education placement

The EHC Plan Process

The process of the EHC assessment should be outlined on your local authority website, usually in the education section or in the special education section.

If you want in-depth information about the process you can find it on IPSEA website  and the Special Needs Jungle website.

Child Autism UK clinical staff have in-depth training on how to be an expert witness and can write reports and present at EHC Plan tribunals.  In addition, Child Autism UK can provide help writing parent submissions and general advice about the process in relation to obtaining funding for ABA.  Parents can also contact our office for lists of solicitors and educational psychologists who act as expert witnesses and are knowledgeable about ABA.

How are the new EHC Plans going?

So we are beginning to see the new EHC Plans and hearing from parents about their experiences.

Let’s recap. The point of the new legislation for SEN embedded in the Children and Families Act 2014 was:

  • To ensure all the child’s educational needs were met and Health, Social Services and Education would work together and not play ‘pat a cake’ with individual cases
  • To make parents more aware of the local process and local services, so they could make informed choices (the local offer)
  • To bring transparency to the process
  • To offer personalised budgets and informed choice to parents

The subtext was to reduce the confrontational nature of SEN, reduce the number of statements and number of SEN appeals. The philosophy behind it was to really bring market forces in to SEN by making parents aware of what is available, giving them choice and putting the funds in their hands.

This all sounds good to me and probably you too. So how is it going?

Well, some local offers are pretty comprehensive, fair and offer parents much more information. Others are weak and clearly meant to drive parents towards existing local authority services. Unfortunately many are still a work-in-progress. When Peach wrote to all councils asking to be included in the local offer, more than 60% did not respond at all!

EHC Plans and the personalised budget?

So far this seems to be a virtual budget. Your son/daughter has SEN and needs support. You are told you can have A, B, C or D.

If parents say ‘but I didn’t want A, B, C or D, I want to spend the budget on E, the answer is no, you can’t have that. In the most worrying cases, when parents have said ‘well how much money is allocated to little Johnny’, some local authorities are not able to say.

And the EHC Plan process

The process does seem a little better. Meetings are less confrontational, in some cases real efforts are being made to work together. Some parents have told us they have found this change quite different and quite disconcerting.

E.g. An assessment has taken place, everyone meets to decide on the outcome. They all sit in a circle. Let’s start by saying something positive about child A, (who is present too) says the Chair. Everyone else says something positive. Post-it notes are written and stuck on the wall.

More questions are asked, where will child A be in 5 years or 10 years time? How will they get there? More post-it notes are written.

The meeting ends. The parents leave with a feel-good feeling, but what outcomes have been agreed?

The EHC Plan comes, the post-it notes have been “interpreted” and parents who thought they were discussing needs, now find they were discussing outcomes.

Our top tip for parents attending EHC Plan meetings

Have your own agenda. You may be surprised by the format, it is not what you will be used to. Think before you go about what you want for your child in the future, but think about resources and placements needed to get you there. At the meeting, even if you are not asked directly, tell those present what you want and ask what budget is available: is it sufficient for everything your child needs and can you have it to spend on what you want?