An EHCP is described as a last resort for children with additional needs, as it expected that the majority of reasonable adjustment requirements that the notional SEN budget can meet a child needs within a mainstream education setting.
Certainly, within Northamptonshire, there is also an unwritten push towards only issuing plans for children who need specialist provision. Limiting the support you can access for your child with special schools and designated special provision is only accessible with an EHCP.
An EHCP does the following:
An assessment request can be made by the education setting, the parents or the young person if they are over 16 years old.
Parents, Guardians and Carers can write to the Local Authority to request a statutory assessment. The letter should have the reasons you believe your child has or may have special educational needs and why they need the provisions to be made through an EHC Plan. A reply from the Local Authority must happen within six weeks as stated in the Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014 (Regulation 4(1)), if the Local Authority deny the request, you can appeal through an SEN tribunal.
Once the request is made, the Local Authority must consider:
If the answer to both of these questions is yes, an EHC needs assessment must happen. The assessment test is part of the Children and Families Act 2014 (Section 36(8)), meaning these are the only questions the Local Authority should be asking in deciding whether or not to carry out an EHC needs assessment.
Despite this legal test Northamptonshire Local Authority tends to apply their own policies and thresholds, appeal processes allow you to challenge this should your request for an assessment be denied.
The needs assessment, assess the education, health care and social care of the child or young person. The Local Authority has to obtain advice from a range of people. Stated in the Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014 (Regulation 6(1)) is the list of people the Local Authority must seek advice from, this information is the legal minimum the Local Authority has to do:
During this process, some parents get reports from private specialists such as Occupational therapists (OT), to support the needs assessment. All information provided needs to be specific and quantified in terms of the provision suggested, and this includes advice from NHS and private professionals.
The ongoing battle is that the amount of resources restricts the NHS professionals; the restrictions tend to be reflected in their recommendations. In contrast, the Local Authority considers the private professionals are writing the recommendations in the hope of more work. However, the Local Authority is legally obliged to take account of all the reports submitted. If, for example, a recommendation made for a service not provided by the NHS (such a sensory regulation), then the Local Authority may then fund a second opinion.
Advice must be clear, specific and accessible (SEN and Disability Code of Practice, Paragraph 9.51). Guidance should particularly address the child or young person's needs, the provisions required to meet those needs and the outcomes the provisions aim to achieve.
Your views as a parent, guardian or carer are important, but the process can be overwhelming. The everyday challenges and the adaptations you make become almost 'normal' and so it can be tough thinking about all the needs and adjustments your child or young person needs.
The SEND Code of Practice 2015 states that "special educational needs can be experienced in just one or across all four "areas of need."
These four areas of need are in the plan, so it is vital to prepare your thoughts for expressing your views on the ones you deem relevant to your child or young person.
IPESA has a list of prompts for what you may need to consider for the areas of need:
After agreeing to assess the Local Authority have 16 weeks to inform you if they are not going to be issuing a plan, a further 10 weeks from this date, they have to inform you if they will be conducting an assessment. If they are issuing a plan, the draft should be with you, within 14 weeks so the following deadlines of the process can be met.
EHCP's tend to be large documents split into lettered sections. Key sections you need to be aware of are B (child's SEN), F (required SEN provision) and I (name of the school and type of school or institution); these are the sections that are enforceable by the law via an SEN tribunal.
The only relevant issue is whether the provision is required to meet the child's needs, not whether resources or services are locally available. Once you have received the draft plan, you can name your school and make any comments or request any alterations you feel are needed. There is a two-week deadline for the process, and then the Local Authority will consult with the school, and issue the final plan. There are usually aspects to challenge or issues with school placement.
The EHCP process is a legal one, and you have rights and access to the SEN Tribunal at various points throughout the process if the Local Authority:
Before the tribunal, you have the right to free independent mediation which enables you to meet with the Local Authority and challenge their decision in a meeting. Some people argue this is just a delay tactic and doesn't get results, so it is best to go straight to tribunal.
If you opt for that, you need to request a mediation certificate to confirm the offer, but you have declined, there is not a bad judgement from the judge for refusal of mediation.
If you do decide to give mediation a go and feel you have a reasonably clear and well-evidenced case, request that a decision-maker be present from the Local Authority, so an outcome is reached on the day.
The appeal process is daunting, as it is a formal legal process. However, there is help and support available, and at the time of writing (December 2020), the current success rate for parents taking Northamptonshire Local Authority to SEN tribunal is 96%.
An EHCP is not for every child with ASC; some individuals will be able to manage fine in school with support through reasonable adjustments and the notional budget funding. However, some do need significantly more help, and even different environments to enable them to access their education. Remember, it is not just about academic ability; it is about removing the barriers to learning, giving children an equal opportunity to learn as their peers so that they can reach their full individual potential.
We are not claiming to be experts in the EHCP process and so have identified the prominent support organisations for you to access throughout this journey below.
This is a parent led Facebook support group where experiences can be shared and questions askedFacebook Group
An impartial and confidential service which gives free information, advice and support about matters relating to Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. The service operates at arms length from the local authority and clinical commissioning groups through independently trained staff.IASS Website
IPSEA offers free and independent legally based information, advice and support to help get the right education for children and young people with all kinds of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). We also provide training on the SEND legal framework to parents and carers, professionals and other organisations.IPSEA Website