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EHCP: The 5 Stages for Children with SEND

Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) can be an invaluable resource for children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) to access holistic support to help boost academic progress, benefit from tailored healthcare and live a happier life.

But the process of securing, planning and delivering an EHCP is complex and often lengthy, involving a number of partners across local authorities, health and social care teams, and education settings.

In this blog we break down five key steps for an EHCP to be created, implemented and regularly reviewed to ensure a needs-met approach is taken.

1.     Identifying needs of children with SEND

When a child is not making the expected academic progress, and tendencies of SEND are perhaps present, assessments may be conducted within in a school setting to explore the potential of neurodiversity and identify related needs to better support the child. Here we are assuming such assessments and diagnoses have already taken place, and as such will focus on the next steps when tailored support is already in place but isn’t having the desired effect and so additional assistance may be needed.

Usually, schools and local authorities will have ‘early help’ in place through the ‘local offer’, providing a range of educational or healthcare support for children and young people, and their families.

Where this is not enough, usually for children with the most complex learning needs, an EHCP may be requested by a parent or carer, a teacher or the young person themselves, or anyone else with concerns about the child’s needs. Local authorities are responsible for conducting an ECHP needs assessment, usually led by the SEN department who will conduct the SEN Statutory Assessment process.

Once the assessment has been requested, the local authority can spend six weeks gathering school reports, speech and language support updates, educational psychology reviews etc., to build an understanding of the child’s SEND and their related needs. Parents may also submit information they feel could be helpful.

After reviewing the collated information, the local authority will make a decision as to whether or not to conduct an EHCP needs assessment. If they decide an assessment is not needed, the authority should still provide advice and guidance on what more can be done outside of an EHCP to better support the child or young person with SEND.

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2.     Conducting an EHCP needs assessment

As summarised by EHCP Journeys, the assessment stage “seeks advice and information from a number of key professionals on a child or young person’s education, health and care needs. Based on the evidence gathered the LA must then decide whether they will issue an EHC plan.”

Parents or carers that have requested the assessment will have the opportunity to work alongside an Independent Supporter, who can accompany them at meetings, offer advice and guidance when submitting information, and help them, in collaboration with the child where possible, create a profile of the child as an individual to help practitioners better understand who they are, what they like and what they consider to be important.

Based on all the information submitted to a local authority from a range of stakeholders who know and have worked with the child or young person with SEND, a decision will be made on whether to draw up an ECHP.

If this is to be the case, a draft EHCP will be prepared based on the needs identified from information gathered from health and social care and education providers. This is then shared for review, as well as an invitation for apply for a personal budget for the child or young person.

Once a draft has been shared, 15 days are allowed for review and proposed amendments to be made. Following further consultation between the local authority and parents/young person, the final EHCP is issued.

This whole process should not take longer than 20 weeks from when an assessment is first requested.


3.     Creating an Education, Health and Care Plan

When a plan is being assembled, it is key that all elements are considered and provisions are laid out in a meaningful, practical and needs-focused way. In a recent study conducted by EHCP Journeys around what parents want as part of this stage, key findings included:

  • Plans need to be well structured: the wide-ranging nature of an EHCP is appreciated by parents because of how much it can include, but often draft plans can be difficult to read because of the technical jargon included throughout. Local authorities may want to consider how to make this part of the process more accessible.
  • Needs, actions and provision should be explicitly specified: it may be helpful to include SMART targets as part of this, outlining timescales, resources required, and lines of accountability.
  • More information is needed around Personal Budgets: inconsistencies were found in whether or not parents were informed about Personal Budgets, and how much information was provided. Parents need time to consider eligibility for this funding, and what it could mean for them and their child.

The child or young person with SEND should also be part of decision-making around the Plan and what it means for them, as much as possible and as appropriate.


4.     Implementing the final EHCP

This step is about meeting the commitments outlined in the ECHP, decided in collaboration with all stakeholders involved in supporting a young person with SEND.

Provisions should be delivered by local authority and health and social care partners, while the learner is in the named educational setting / placement – with the setting having guaranteed they can deliver what is needed for that child.

It is key for all service providers to keep in mind the outcomes laid out by the EHCP, to ensure there is a clear direction for the progress of the learner, and the role that each form of support plays in helping the young person meet these goals.

When considering the implementation journey it is helpful to consistently review SMART objectives, ensure leadership and accountability is in place, and monitor the quality of provision delivered.


5.     Regularly reviewing the EHCP

An EHCP must be reviewed on an annual basis at a minimum, and the formal Annual Reviews will hold a lot of focus around the child or young person and their progress. For young people at the older end of the cohort, more work will be done on preparing for adulthood, including looking at pathways to employment and moving away from the support provided by school settings.

On a more regular basis, those with responsibility for ensuring the EHCP is effectively delivered should monitor and evaluate the quality of provision and related outcomes. Such analysis will allow for tweaks to be made in a timely manner to help boost progress for the child or young person.

The learner with SEND as well as families and professionals supporting them should be part of the review process, continuing to feed into the plan and highlighting where needs change. All stakeholders should have the opportunity to raise concerns or issues, and a robust communication system should exist between all involved.

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