The Education Health Care (EHC) plan replaces the current Special Educational Needs (SEN) statementing process. The EHC plan comes into effect from September 2014
Children are defined as having a SEN:
- If they find it significantly more difficult to learn compared to the majority of children who are the same age
- If they have a disability which hinders them from accessing educational facilities compared to other children of the same age
- As a result of the above require educational provision additional to or different in some way compared to that generally available to other children of the same age
The primary areas covered by SEN are:
- Communication and interaction
- Emotional, social and behavioural development
- Sensory and physical
If a child has been identified as likely to have a SEN then a statutory assessment is carried out covering their education, health and care needs. A decision is then taken as to whether an EHC plan is required.
The EHC plan replaces the Special Learning Difficulty assessments and Educational Needs (SEN) statement. It also replaces the School Action and School Action Plus intervention schemes.
Local Authorities (LA) will migrate existing SEN statements across to EHC plans gradually over three years starting from September 2014.
A key feature of the EHC plan is its focus on defining what outcomes are expected. The resources needed to achieve the stated outcomes are then quantified in the plan.
The EHC plan is a ‘living’ document that will be updated over the years covering key transitions for the child from early years education through to adulthood, paid employment and independent living.
The health care component of the EHC plan is provided by a local Clinical Commissioning Group. The Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has effectively replaced the former Primary Care Trust (PCT) which ceased to exist from April 2013.
Timescales for the process have been set as follows.
The EHC plan
The EHC plan document should be:
- Clear and easy to read avoiding the use of jargon
- Person centred, evidence based and focussed on the outcomes
- The outcomes themselves ought to be specific, measurable, achievable and time-bound
- The interventions that will assist in achieving the outcome to be defined clearly with any resources quantified
- Reviewed annually and amended as required (optional re-assessment after 6mths if needed)
Parents can choose a school provided the Local Authority consider it suitable for the child, that the placement would not be incompatible with the education of other children attending the school and it is an efficient use of resources.
Note the EHC plan is updated up-to the age of 19 if the young person remains in education but University attendance and employment is not eligible for the EHC plan. In some cases the plan can also be extended until the age of 25 years.
The EHC document
The EHC plan document plays a key role in planning for the child/young persons key transition points in life as they move from school, to further education and finally into paid employment bringing with it an independent life.
The plan will also consider the role of informal resources, such as family and friends, in helping to achieve the stated outcomes.
Whilst there is no standard template for the EHC plan document, it will need to cover the following:
- The child’s views and those of their family
- A statement of the Special Educational Need
- The outcomes being sought
- The specific provision required to meet the SEN including health and social services
- The school or educational establishment to be attended
- Personal budget to be allocated
- Details of the advice and information that was referenced during the assessment
Transport is only included if really necessary so a Local Authority might well suggest a school closer to home unless parents are willing to pay for transport to a school further away.
The concept of a personal budget is a huge and significant change to the provisioning process. The aim is to empower parents by providing them with the funds to purchase the provision themselves. Details of how this will actually work are still being defined by Local Authorities. The personal budget would cover:
- Funding for education, health and social care resources to meet the defined outcomes
- Fund specific additional educational needs that are not met by higher needs block funds
Note the personal budget cannot be used to fund a school place and may not be provided to parents and young people deemed to be unsuitable for such a responsibility.
There are three options to personal budget funding:
- LA retains the fund with the parents directing its spend
- The funds are paid to a third-party which spends it on behalf of the parents
- Parents receive funding directly to purchase resources
The dispute resolution process hasn’t changed significantly from that available for the SEN statementing process which the EHC plan replaces. There is a mandatory requirement to at least discuss mediation with an independent mediation advisor before approaching the SEND tribunal.
Parents must appeal within two months of the EHC plan being issued unless the appeal is concerning disability discrimination. Appeals can be for the following reasons:
- Local Authority decided not to carry out an assessment or do an EHC plan
- The description of the SEN provision or school
- Decision not to amend the EHC plan
- Decision to cease the EHC plan
My son’s SEN statement is being replaced with the EHC plan. I’m expecting a draft copy to be issued shortly. At this stage I don’t know whether this new system will be an improvement on the previous statementing process. I like the idea of a plan that takes the young person through key life transitions into adulthood. Its a daunting journey and the anxiety I feel is sometimes quite crushing. Anything that helps is certainly welcome.