What is an EHC Plan and Why is it Important?
An Education, Health and Care (or EHC for short) plan is a resource available to children and young people who require additional support than what is traditionally available through special educational needs support.
An EHC plan will clearly specify a child’s special educational needs, desired outcomes for the child in question, and the special educational provision to help the child achieve those goals.
Each plan should also incorporate any health and social care requirements relating to the child’s special educational needs, whilst detailing the additional support required to meet those needs.
The special educational provision mapped out in an EHC plan must be provided by the relevant local authority. Whilst an EHC plan can provide a child or young person with extra educational support, it also ensures they and their parents will have more choice regarding schools and/or other settings they can attend.
When were EHC plans introduced - and what did they replace?
The Children and Families Act 2014 was introduced by the then government to provide “greater protection to vulnerable children, better support for children whose parents are separating, a new system to help children with special educational needs and disabilities, and help for parents to balance work and family life”.
As part of this legislation, EHC plans were launched as a replacement for Statements of Special Educational Need (SEN), and what were called Learning Difficulty Assessments (LDAs).
Who can ask for an EHC assessment?
The following people can typically request an EHC assessment from a local authority:
- A parent of a child under 16 years of age who may need an EHC assessment
- A young person between the ages of 16 and 25 who may need an EHC assessment
- A young person under the age of 19 years in youth custody, who may need an EHC assessment
- A school or college worker who believes a child or a young person has special educational needs
It is advised that before anybody requests an assessment, they should seek advice from the child or young person’s nursery, playgroup, school or college, as well as exploring what support options are already available at their existing educational establishment.
If the local authority in question decides to carry out an assessment, the person requesting the assessment may be asked to provide: any reports from the child’s nursery, playgroup or school; any assessments from the child’s doctor; and a letter detailing the child’s needs. The local authority will then inform you within approximately 16 weeks whether an EHC plan is going to be created.
What should an EHC plan include?
Whilst the format of any EHC plan will be agreed locally, they must include the following sections as a statutory minimum. Each section must also be labelled separately from each other using the letters below:
- A: The views, interests and aspirations of the child and his or her parents or the young person
- B: The child or young person’s special educational needs
- C: The child or young person’s health needs related to their SEN
- D: The child or young person’s social care needs which are related to their SEN or to a disability
- E: The outcomes sought for the child or the young person. This should include outcomes for adult life; the EHC plan should also identify the arrangements for the setting of shorter-term targets by the early years’ provider, school, college
- F: The special educational provision required by the child or the young person
- G: Any health provision required that is related to their SEN or to a disability
- H1: Any social care provision that must be made for a child or young person under 18
- H2: Any other social care provision required that is related to their SEN or to a disability
- I: The name and type of the school, maintained nursery school, post-16 institution or other institution to be attended by the child or young person
- J: The details of how any allocated personal budget will support particular outcomes, the provision it will be used for; the special educational needs and outcomes that are to be met by any direct payment must be specified
- K: The advice and information gathered during the EHC needs assessment must be included
Full descriptions can be found in the SEND Code of Conduct, from 9.62 onwards.
A good EHC plan should be clear, concise and easy to digest, whilst offering sufficient detail regarding the above criteria. It should include an accurate and comprehensive description of what is being provided to the young person or child, by whom and for how long, to ensure the goals are met.
Choosing a school as part of an EHC plan
It is the legal right of young people, or a child’s parents, to request that a particular school, college or other educational institution is included within their EHC plan. Requests could be made upon receiving a plan for the very first time, following an annual review of the plan, or if a child or young person has to move schools. This includes:
- Any maintained school or nursery (mainstream or special)
- A non-maintained special school
- An Academy (either mainstream or special academy)
- Any institution in the Further Education sector
- A section 41 school
The Children and Families Act 2014 states that a local authority can only refuse a request due to the following reasons:
- If the school or other institution requested is unsuitable for the age, ability, aptitude or special educational needs of the child or young person concerned
- The attendance of the child or young person at the requested school or other institution would be incompatible with the provision of efficient education for others
- The attendance of the child or young person at the requested school or other institution would be incompatible with the efficient use of resources
Entry to an independent school or college can also be requested, however it would be up to the parent or young person to prove the schools suggested by the local authority in question couldn’t fulfil the needs of the child or young person, or that the associated cost of attending said school or college does not constitute unreasonable public expenditure.
Is an EHC plan reviewed annually?
The relevant local authority is required to conduct a review of an EHC plan every 12 months, as a minimum. Following each review, the local authority will make the decision to continue with the plan, amend or change it, or withdraw or ‘cease to maintain’ the EHC plan.
Informal reviews can also be requested discuss individual plans and the child or young person’s progress. This could involve teachers and anyone working with the pupil/student. Scope says a parent or guardian could request a review if:
- the child is not progressing as expected
- you’re worried the school is not following your child’s EHC plan
- you’re not sure how the school is delivering the support
- there are problems with health or social care providers, such as physios or speech and language therapists, at the school
- you want to talk about any team changes and who will be supporting your child
The charity also suggests that if there’s a bigger problem, “like something the SENCO cannot deal with or a problem with the school, you might want to involve your SEN officer or case worker from the local authority”.