How these crucial SEN documents are put together
What are EHC plans?
When children/young people need more support than can be provided at school/college, an assessment for an education, health and care (EHC) plan may need to be conducted. Consequently, an EHC plan may be produced for them. The SEND Code of Practice (CoP) dedicates its longest chapter to EHC assessments and plans, discussing everything from initial assessments, to finalising and maintaining the plans. It also talks about the need to review them annually, transferring them to another local authority (LA) and ceasing to maintain them.
What do they look like?
According to the CoP, an EHC plan’s format can be agreed locally but, as a statutory minimum, EHC plans must include the following sections, which must be separately labelled using the letters below. The CoP says that these sections are not restricted to the order below and LAs may use an action plan in tabular format to include different sections and demonstrate how provision will be integrated (sections must be separately labelled):
- Section A: the views, interests and aspirations of the child, their parents or the young person
- Section B: the child/young person’s SEN
- Section C: the child/young person’s health needs related to their SEN
- Section D: the child/young person’s social care needs related to their SEN or to a disability
- Section E: the outcomes sought for the child/young person, including short-term targets by the early years provider/school/college or other education/training provider and outcomes for adult life
- Section F: the special educational provision required by the child/young person
- Section G: any health provision reasonably required by the learning difficulties/disabilities which result in the child/young person having SEN (if an Individual health care plan is made for them, this should be included)
- Section H1: any social care provision which must be made for a child/young person under 18 (resulting from section 2 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970)
- Section H2: any other social care provision necessary for the learning difficulties or disabilities which result in the child/young person having SEN (including adult social care provision being provided through a statutory care plan under the Care Act 2014)
- Section I: the name and type of school/maintained nursery school/post-16 institution or other institution to be attended by the child/young person (or the type of school/institution to be attended)
- Section J: where there is a personal budget, in what way it will support particular outcomes and how it will be used, including flexibility in its usage and any direct payments for education, health and social care (also specifying the SEN and outcomes that are to be met by any direct payments)
- Section K: all the advice and information gathered during the EHC needs assessment (which must be attached in appendices).
Who contributes to the EHC plan?
By law, the LA must gather advice from relevant professionals about the child/young person’s education, health and care needs, desired outcomes and special educational, health and care provision that may be required to meet identified needs and achieve desired outcomes. The CoP states that this should also be considered with the child’s parent /young person and the following advice and information must be sought:
- advice from the child’s parent/young person
- educational advice from the early years setting/school/post-16 or other institution attended by the child/young person (where available, or if the child/young person does not attend an educational institution, the LA must seek educational advice from a person responsible for educational provision for the child/young person or a person with experience teaching children/young people with SEN)
- if the child/young person is vision or hearing impaired, the educational advice must be given by a teacher for pupils or students with these impairments
- medical advice from health care professionals with a role in relation to the child’s/young person’s health
- advice from an educational psychologist (EP) who should be employed or commissioned by the LA (who should consult any other psychologists known to be involved with the child/young person)
- social care advice from or on behalf of the LA (including, if appropriate, children in need or child protection assessments, information from a looked-after child’s care plan, or adult social care assessments for young people over 18)
- (from Year 9 onwards) advice about provision to assist the child/young person in preparation for adulthood and independent living
- advice from any person requested by the child’s parent or young person, where the local authority considers it reasonable (such as a GP or other health professional)
- (if necessary) advice from a youth offending team/young offender institution
- any other advice and information which the LA considers appropriate for a satisfactory assessment.
How is the EHC plan then compiled?
The point of the EHC needs assessment is to obtain evidence from various people who can help determine what should be included. The LA and contributors to the preparation of an EHC plan should abide by the following principles:
- the LA must take into account evidence received as part of the EHC needs assessment
- decisions about the content of EHC plans should be made openly and collaboratively with parents/children/young people
- EHC plans should be clear, concise and accessible to parents/children/young people/providers/practitioners (they should be written to be understood by professionals in any LA)
- EHC plans should describe positively what the child/young person can do and has achieved (it should also be clear how the child/young person has contributed to the EHC plan and how their views are reflected in it)
- EHC plans should specify outcomes which are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-bound) and the LA must consider how best to achieve the outcomes sought
- EHC plans should show how education, health and care provision will be coordinated wherever possible to support the child/young person to achieve their outcomes (specifically if possible)
- EHC plans should be progressive (for example anticipating/planning/commissioning for important transition points in a child/young person’s life, including to adult life)
- EHC plans should have a review date (which should link to other regular reviews, such as a child in need plan or child protection plan, if appropriate).
Do I get to see/discuss the EHC plan in draft?
Yes, the CoP states that: “The LA must send the draft EHC plan (including the appendices containing the advice and information gathered during the EHC needs assessment) to the child’s parent or to the young person and give them at least 15 days to give views and make representations on the content.” It adds: “During this period, the local authority must make its officers available for a meeting with the child’s parent or young person on request if they wish to discuss the content of the draft EHC plan.” The draft plan must not contain the name of the early years setting/school/post-16 institution/other institution or even the type of school/other institution to be attended by the child/young person. The LA must also:
- notify the child’s parent/young person that during this period they can request that a particular school or other institution (or type of school or other institution), be named in the plan
- advise the child’s parent/young person where they can find information about the schools/colleges that are available to attend.
Specialist SEN solicitor Douglas Silas is the Principal of Douglas Silas Solicitors and runs the website: www.SpecialEducationalNeeds.co.uk. He is also the author of A Guide To The SEND Code of Practice (updated for 2017/18), which is available for all eBook readers: www.AGuideToTheSENDCodeOfPractice.co.uk
The advice provided here is of a general nature and Douglas Silas Solicitors cannot be held responsible for any loss caused by reliance placed upon it.
To read Douglas Silas’s second article in this series about EHC plans, click here.