EHCP (Educational Health Care Plan). A guide for parents.

Last Updated: 28 May 24
Young boy working with SEN tutor.

Recent news headlines report concerns that thousands of children in England are missing out on support as councils fail to meet care plan details. Councils have a legal time limit of 20 weeks to issue an education, health, and care plan (EHCP) after a parent or school asks for one. BBC News (May 2024) has found eight councils met this deadline in less than 5% of cases from April to December 2023.

This article provides a comprehensive guide on what an EHCP is and how to apply for an EHCP as a parent.

Content:

  1. What is an EHCP?
  2. Who is an EHCP for?
  3. How to apply for an EHCP as a parent
  4. Five tips on applying for an EHCP
  5. What does an EHCP include?
  6. How long does an EHCP last?
  7. Getting the most from your EYCP's personal budget
  8. Finding a SEN tutor
  9. The Bottom Line

What is an EHCP?

An Educational Healthcare Plan (EHCP or EHC) is a legal document that sets out the education, healthcare, and social needs of a child or young person who requires extra support in school beyond what the school can provide. Previously, this was known as a "Statement of Special Educational Needs."

Children with an EHCP are usually entitled to extra one-to-one support in school (though not necessarily full-time). These children will have outside agencies involved in their support, such as SEN teachers, behavioural experts, or physiotherapists.

 

Who is an EHCP for?

An EHCP is for any child or young person with significant and complex Special Educational Needs or Disabilities (SEND). It is required when a child's needs cannot be met by the usual support available to them in their school or setting.

Many children with special needs receive support directly from their school without an EHCP. This support is general SEN support that comes from resources already available in the school. However, some children or young people's needs may be deemed significant and complex and require an EHCP assessment by the Local Authority (LA).

An EHCP is drawn up between the LA, Health and Social Care and the child’s family (or directly with the young person if aged between 16 and 25). The purpose of an EHCP is to provide clear, structured support for any difficulties that the child or young person has. The EHCP will identify what a school must implement to help the child or young person and the outcomes necessary to achieve it. The EHCP will also set a clear timeframe during which the outcomes should be achieved and when they will be next reviewed. As it is legally binding, this means the LA must fund any extra help identified as necessary.

An EHCP can be a golden ticket when it comes to school admissions. In the bunfight of applications for reception and year 7, a child with an EHCP gets a priority place ahead of many other applicants. It even allows a parent to apply to schools for which they are out of catchment or otherwise don’t meet the admissions criteria if the parent can show that this school has provision for their child’s needs, which their local schools lack.

 

How to apply for an EHCP as a parent

The new SEND Code of Practice (2014) emphasises that parents are central to helping their children thrive and succeed at school. The parents and the teachers are all on the same side and work together to support the child.

In theory, parents should be in close contact about what is working, what is not, and what else could be tried. In reality, this is often far from the truth. Communication between school and parents may be sporadic; you may not feel welcome, judged, or even consider that your school is failing your child.

The process for applying for an EHCP varies according to the LA but has some general requirements:

  • As the parent, you will initially be asked to request an EHC needs assessment (EHCna) to see if your child’s needs can be met under their current school’s SEN provision or whether an EHCP is necessary. Note that not all needs assessments will result in the provision of an EHCP.
  • The School SEN Coordinator (SENCO) will generally start the process for you. However, if your school is not proactive or disagrees with you, you can request an EHCna for your child directly from your LA. Young people aged 16-25 can request one directly from the LA website.
  • To qualify for an EHCP assessment, you must supply evidence of your child’s academic attainment and rate of progress, and you must provide information about the nature, extent and context of their needs.

The LA must respond to your request for an assessment within six weeks, so please note the date you submit your request.

LAs routinely turn families away at this stage, often stating that they will only assess children once they have a report from an educational psychologist or a diagnosis. They may ask you to participate in information-gathering about your child. This is your chance to collate evidence and document your child’s difficulties, strengths and aspirations. There is an opportunity for parents to present their views and hopes.

A mum recently through the EHCP application advises families to “stick to their guns and, if necessary, move straight to an appeal.” An appeal, despite the name, is only a paper exercise, and more than 90% of families who go on to appeal will go on to win their case. “I was being called by my son's mainstream school, on a near-daily basis, about problems they were having with his autistic behaviours, yet we were turned down when we applied for an EHCP,” she says. “I thought that was the end of the line, but luckily, we got some advice and appealed, and this time they accepted it.”

Once the LA has agreed to an EHC assessment, they will begin to gather information from parents and all education professionals, doctors, and therapists involved in the child’s care. Before a final draft of the EHCP is agreed upon, the family will be invited to a Support and Outcomes Plan session.

Ensure that a review date is set for the EHCP and determine who is responsible for it. For young children, the EHCP may need updating every few months; for older children, most EHCPS will require an annual review.

Parents can be upset by the sometimes depressing picture that an EHCP presents of their child. “You sometimes have to grit your teeth. It can be horrible to read several professional reports describing your child in negative terms. Still, it sometimes is necessary to get the right help for them.” says a father.

From the initial agreement to assess through to the final draft of the EHCP, it can take 20 weeks, though sometimes a little longer.

 

Five tips on applying for an EHCP

Whatever your situation, here are some guidelines that will help you get off to a good start:

1. Find out how your school thinks your child is doing:

First of all, you should speak to your child's headteacher and the school SENCO. Ask them what level of support the school already provides, if any, e.g. School Action or School Action Plus. Ask if your child is on the school SEN register.

Ask the school to provide you with a record of the educational and behavioural interventions they have used and comments about how they have worked or not. Find out who has delivered the intervention, if you don't already know, over what period, how the intervention has been monitored for progress and whether your child has achieved their target. Get concrete evidence that whatever has been planned has been completed. Ensure these outcomes have been achieved reliably and not just hit once on a lucky day. This will give you a better understanding of what your child is currently achieving, and you should be able to compare it with the average expected level for a child of their age.

Collect together any reports or tests your child has ever had, including exam results, school reports, referrals to Paediatricians, Occupational Therapy, Speech and Language Therapists, Educational Psychologists, etc.

Create a file and organise all of this in chronological order. You are building up the evidence and a profile of your child because you will need to prove that they need the help you say they do.

Scan all your letters into your computer so you never lose them and you can e-mail or print them whenever you need them. Never send original documents to anyone.

2. Find out what levels your child should be achieving:

Your Local Authority (LA) will likely argue that just because your child is achieving below the average does not mean they have any SEN or require an EHCP.

Children in each school class have a broad spectrum of abilities and achievements according to their potential. Many children will never be top of their class, but that doesn't mean they have SEN.

So, how do you show that your child has a more significant potential than their current achievements? The obvious way is to secure an Educational Psychology assessment for them. Each LA has its register of Educational Psychologists. The new SEND Code of Practice says that external experts should be called in at an early stage when an SEN is suspected. You should ask your SENCO to arrange one so that you can, as a team, get a good idea of the current picture. ?You may also need to consider a Speech and Language assessment or an Occupational Therapy assessment if this is indicated.

Building and maintaining a positive relationship with your school SENCO and class teacher is essential. If an Ed Psych assessment is not forthcoming, you could consider a private assessment, usually at great expense. However, the LA can regard these with suspicion, as they may feel the report is biased towards the paying parent's views.

3. Get a medical diagnosis for your child, if applicable:

Parents often don't like labelling their children, but a diagnosis is important if you are looking for LA support. If your son or daughter has dyslexia, dyscalculia, ASD, ADHD, or any other hidden disability, you will need to be able to evidence this, not just give your opinion.

We would advise you to take your child to your GP and ask them to refer your child to a paediatrician, child psychiatrist, or the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS). A precise medical diagnosis is hard to ignore.

You can book an appointment with a paediatrician or child psychiatrist privately for a diagnosis if you can afford the significant fees.

If your child has an undiagnosed condition, then focus your case on the symptoms that they have. You may also draw parallels with general conditions for some of their symptoms, e.g., posture, visual difficulties, medication needs, attention difficulties, sensory issues, accessibility requirements etc.

4. Take time to prepare your case:

Once you have all the evidence and information you need, contact your LA and work through their application process, keeping all of their policies together. Make it work for you. Use evidence to demonstrate that your child isn't getting what they should be. When you send in your EHCP submission, you don't need to use their application form if you don't want to. Ensure you write all you can relevant to your case and provide reports to back them up. This will take many redrafts and a lot of time. You may feel you need help; if so, don't hesitate to ask.

Undoubtedly, this process can be stressful and often depressing, and many parents will give up along the way.

Cases are self-evident and easier to prove if your child has visible and significant needs. If your child has a hidden disability, then the issue is much more challenging to prove. In these cases, only the most determined parents will get what they want, and many families will give up during the process. Remember, you are your child's greatest asset and best advocate. Don't give up.

5. Get help:

Look at your Local Authority website and search under “Local Offer” for further and specific details of the process and policies set out in your region.

When you apply for an EHCP assessment, you should be offered and assigned an Independent Supporter. You don't have to use one, but they're free and should support you through the process.

 

What does an EHCP include?

An EHCP will include 12 sections of crucial information, which include:

  • (A) The views, the interests and aspirations of the child or young person
  • (B) The child's or young person's Special Educational Needs
  • (C) The health needs related to the child's or young person's SEN or disability
  • (D) The social care needs related to the child's or young person's SEN or disability
  • (E) The planned outcomes for the child or young person
  • (F) The provision for the needs mentioned in Section B
  • (G) Any health provision
  • (H1) Any social care provision that must be made for a child or young person
  • (H2) Any social care provision related to a child's SEN or a disability
  • (I) The name/type of school or setting
  • (J) Details of any personal budget
  • (K) Any advice and information from the EHC assessment

Note, if a young person is in or beyond Year 9, the EHCP must also set out the provision for the young person in preparing for adulthood and independent living.

 

How long does an EHCP last?

The EHCP will be reviewed once every year by the Local Authority. The Annual Review Meeting involves all the agencies involved with a child or young person, including the young person. This meeting will review the progress towards the outcomes in the EHCP, discuss any changes in need or new needs that may be present, and give everybody involved with the child a chance to share their views, feelings and wishes about their education, health and overall care.

An EHCP should support a child or young person from birth up to 25, helping them access school, further education, training, and further support in the workplace.

 

Getting the most from your EHCP’s personal budget

If your child has an EHCP (or has been told they need one), you may be able to control their personal budget. This will give you much more say in how to spend the money to support your child.

There are three ways you can organise your personal budget:

  • You can have direct payments into your personal bank account so that you can buy and manage services yourself
  • You can have an arrangement with your school or LA, where they hold the money for you, but you can still decide how to spend it (called 'notional arrangements')
  • You can agree with a third-party arrangement where you can choose someone else to manage the money for you.

We would recommend that any parent aims to secure the first of these three options so that they can have complete control of their budget and can direct this all to their own child rather than letting a school or other provider use this to provide more general SEN support for other children in that setting.


Finding an SEN tutor

Whether you succeed or not in securing an EHCP with funding, you may wish to consider finding your own SEN tutor.

You should look for a qualified and experienced SENCO or SEN teacher who is a subject specialist and up-to-date with the latest techniques and developments in supporting learners with Special Educational Needs.

Teachers To Your Home provides qualified SEN teachers across the UK to support families seeking SEN tuition. You can view or contact relevant and available SEN teachers to support children with:

  • ADHD
  • ASD
  • Autism
  • Anxiety Disorder
  • Behavioural, Emotional and Social Difficulties
  • Dyscalculia
  • Dyslexia


The Bottom Line

Navigating the complexities of securing an Educational Health and Care Plan (EHCP) for your child can be challenging, but understanding the process and your rights can significantly ease the journey. By following the guidelines and utilising available resources, you can ensure your child receives the support they need to thrive in their educational environment. Remember, collaboration with professionals and consistent advocacy are key. For further assistance and detailed information, visit the Teachers To Your Home website and explore additional support options tailored to your child's needs.


Further reading which may interest you:

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