The Local Authority (LA) must consult the child and the child’s parent or the young person throughout the process of an Education, Health and Care Needs assessment and production of an EHC plan.
The Local Authority must gather advice from relevant professionals about the child or 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.
In seeking advice and information, the Local Authority should consider with professionals what advice they can contribute to ensure the assessment covers all the relevant education, health and care needs of the child or young person.
The Content of an Education Health and Care (EHC) Plan
When preparing a child or young person’s EHC Plan, the Local Authority must take into account the evidence received when securing the EHC needs assessment and consider how best to achieve the outcomes for the child or young person.
To gather evidence for the EHC needs assessment, the Local Authority will contact:
- The Headteacher, Principal or Manager of the school, college or other setting
- The Educational Psychology Service
- The Specialist Teaching and Learning Service (SEND Services)
- Health Services
- Social Service
The Local Authority will consult other relevant agencies where the parent or young person notifies the LA that this would be a useful contribution to the EHC needs assessment and plan development. An EHC needs assessment will establish what the child or young person needs are and what support will meet these needs.
The relevance and the quality of an Education, Health and Care plan will depend on the contributions of the professionals who know the child or young person. The Local Authority collates the advice provided. The advice agencies contribute towards an EHC needs assessment will potentially form the basis of an EHC plan, and therefore agencies / professionals involved should work collaboratively with children, young people and families in drawing up their advice.
Outcomes in an EHC Plan
An outcome is the benefit or positive difference made to an individual as a result of an intervention.
An outcome should also be SMART. This means it should be
- Time bound
It should be personal to the child or young person, not described from a service perspective
A good outcome states plainly something the child or young person will be able to do that they cannot do now as a result of an intervention.
An Education Health and Care Plan should explain;
• What a child's special educational needs are (needs)
• What support they need (provision)
• The difference that support should make (outcomes)
These aspirations, needs, outcomes and provision together make up something called ‘the golden thread’
A Person Centred Approach
Children, young people and families should experience well co-ordinated assessment and planning leading to timely, well informed decisions.
Local Authorities must consult the child and the child’s parent or the young person throughout the process of assessment and production of an EHC plan. They should also involve the child as far as possible in this process. The needs of the individual child and young person should sit at the heart of the assessment and planning process.
Planning starts with the individual and the Local Authority must have regard to the views, wishes and feelings of the child, the child’s parent or the young person. The Local Authority will consider their aspirations, the outcomes they seek and the support they need to realise them. It should enable children, parents and young people to have control over decisions about their support including the potential use of a Personal Budget.
The assessment and planning process should:
- focus on the child or young person as an individual;
- enable children and young people and their parents to express their views, wishes and feelings;
- enable children and young people and their parents to be part of the decision-making process;
- be easy for children, young people and their parents or carers to understand;
- use clear language and images rather than professional jargon;
- highlight the child or young person’s strengths and capabilities;
- enable the child or young person, and those that know them best to say what they have done, what they are interested in and what outcomes they are seeking;
- tailor support to the needs of the individual;
- organise assessments to minimise demands on families;
- deliver an outcome focused and co-ordinated plan for the child or young person.
This is often referred to as a person-centred approach. By using this approach within a family context, professionals and Local Authorities can ensure that children, young people and parents are involved in all aspects of planning and decision-making.
Local Authorities should support and encourage the involvement of children, young people and parents or carers by:
- providing them with access to the relevant information in accessible formats;
- giving them time to prepare for discussions and meetings;
- dedicating time in discussions and meetings to hearing their views.
Some children and young people will require support from an advocate so that their views can be shared.
Following an EHC needs assessment, when does the LA have to issue an EHC plan?
The LA must decide whether it will issue an EHC plan for the child or young person based on the evidence it has gathered as part of the EHC needs assessment. The legal test which the LA must apply is found in section 37(1) of the Children and Families Act 2014 which says:
“(1) Where, in the light of an EHC needs assessment, it is necessary for special educational provision to be made for a child or young person in accordance with an EHC plan -
(a) the local authority must secure that an EHC plan is prepared for the child or young person, and
(b) once an EHC plan has been prepared, it must maintain the plan.”
Therefore the LA must decide, on the basis of the evidence from the EHC needs assessment, whether it is necessary for the child or young person to have an EHC plan.
What to do when you receive your draft EHC plan
Following an EHC needs assessment, if the LA decides to issue an EHC plan, the first step is for the LA to send the parent or young person a draft version.
The plan will include information on the child or young person’s special educational needs (“SEN”), health and care needs, the provision required to meet each of those needs, and the outcomes that should be achieved. It will also record the child or young person’s aspirations, views and feelings.
This is an opportunity for you to check whether the draft EHC plan contains everything it should.
A draft EHC plan must not include the name of a particular school, college or other educational placement, or what type of placement the child or young person will attend. This is because the EHC plan must reflect the individual’s needs and the provision to meet those needs, not the resources which can be offered in a particular placement. This means that the name and/or type of placement will appear only in the final EHC plan, not the draft plan.
Along with the draft EHC plan, the LA must give notice to the parent or young person that they have 15 working days in which to:
- make comments – ‘representations’ – about the draft EHC plan;
- request a meeting with the LA to discuss the draft;
- request that a particular school or other institution is named in the final EHC plan.
The LA are legally required to do this (under section 38 of the Children and Families Act 2014). If you are not happy with any aspect of the draft EHC plan, or the reports attached to it, you can suggest amendments you would like made.
You can also ask for a meeting with the LA to discuss your concerns. If you want a meeting, the LA is legally required to agree to meet you. You should consider taking someone along with you for support. You should also consider writing down the exact points you want to make and the questions you want to ask, so that you can be sure that you don’t miss out anything you want to say at the meeting.
When you make a request for a particular school, college or other institution, the LA must consult with that institution about whether it should be named in the final EHC plan (unless your request is for a wholly independent school). For more information on your rights to request a particular school or other institution.
In order to comply with the overall timescale of 20 weeks from the request for assessment to the final EHC plan, the draft EHC plan should be issued within 14 weeks from the request for an EHC needs assessment.
What to do when you receive your final EHC plan
Once a final Education, Health and Care plan has been produced, the child or young person is legally entitled to the special educational provision set out in that plan.
The LA must first have issued a draft EHC and consulted with the parent or the young person about its contents. If the parent or young person requested that a particular school, college or other institution was named in the EHC plan, the LA should have consulted with that institution (unless the request was for a wholly independent setting.
The final EHC plan must be issued within a maximum of 20 weeks from the request for an EHC needs assessment.
A final EHC plan will name the type of school, college or other institution the child or young person will attend, and it will normally also have the name of a particular school or college. If a school, college or other institution is named in an EHC plan, it must admit the child or young person and put the educational provision in the EHC plan into place. This is true even if the school or college argued at the stage the draft EHC plan was issued that the child or young person should not be placed with them.
When a final EHC plan is issued the parent or young person has a right of appeal to the First-tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability) (the “SEND Tribunal”) if they are unhappy about any of the following:
- the description of a child or young person’s special educational needs;
- the special educational provision specified in the EHC plan; and/or
- the name/type of school or college in the EHC plan or the fact that no school/college is named.
All of these elements can be appealed either together or on their own.
Parents and young people can also pursue mediation as a way of resolving disagreements about any of the sections of the EHC plan (not just those listed above).
Parents or young people are also able to appeal the sections of the EHC plan which deal with health and social care. Changes can also be agreed to the health or social care parts of the EHC plan through mediation.