Anyone who has been through the EHCP process will tell you, it’s never straightforward. This is why I thought it would be helpful to write an EHCP “help for parents guide”. Without the legal jargon thrown in. This is by no means the bible of EHCP help guides. It’s just me, as a mum, who has been through this process, writing down all the steps I remember.
What is an EHCP?
An EHCP, or Educational Health Care Plan, is a legal document for children and young people up to the age of 25 years old. It is written by your Local Authority (LA), for children and young people who require more than SEN support. EHCPs are required when a child’s needs cannot be met by the usual support in a school setting. Their needs may be deemed significant and complex.
The purpose of an EHCP is to identify the educational, health and social needs of your child/young person; to set out the support they need to meet those needs; to detail the desired outcome of the support given.
Did you know that approximately 3.7% of pupils have EHCP (Educational Health Care Plans)? 50.4% of these pupils attend state-funded, mainstream schools, and 12.2% have SEN support without an EHCP. 98% of pupils in state-funded special needs school settings had an EHCP, which accounts for 40.6% of all EHCPs. (taken from Twinkl).
When is SEN Support not enough?
Two of my children have ADHD, one has an EHCP one does not. As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, my son has your stereotypical idea of ADHD. The impulsive, hyperactive boy! He responded amazingly to medication and is able to remain in class and focus now. He doesn’t require 1:1 support, just the normal adjustments that can easily be implemented in class for ADHD. Things such as sitting near the front of the class, near the board, and being allowed to take movement breaks. He does not require an EHCP or extra funding.
Any child diagnosed with a SEN (Special Educational Need) should receive SEN support, ie when a child’s needs are not being met by the usual provisions in school. An actual diagnosis is not necessary. See SEND code of practice.
My daughter did need an EHCP. She needed at minimum a 1:1 and eventually a specialist school.
Schools may not start the EHCP process if your child masks in school. Please see my blog on masking to see if this sounds like your child. You know your child best. If your child appears to mask, you may need to start the EHCP process yourself. Make sure you keep a diary of your child’s behaviour. How they are when they come home from school, or anywhere they may have felt they had to mask. Go and see your GP and read on below.
Who commissions the EHCP?
An EHCP is drawn up between your Local Authority, Health and Social Care, and your family. If appropriate your child/young person will also be present. An EHCP will provide clear and structured guidelines for the support your child requires. It will identify what it expects the school to put in place to help them achieve their potential in school and the outcomes they expect. There will be a clear time frame for these outcomes to be achieved and reviewed. It is a legally binding document, meaning the LA must fund everything identified to help your child/young person.
The plus point to an EHCP is that a child with one gets a priority place when it comes to admissions, ahead of other applicants. You can also apply for schools which are out of catchment if you can prove that another school has the provisions your child needs, over the ones locally.
How to apply for an EHCP?
Alas, this can vary from Local Authority to Local Authority but in principle:
- You, as the parent, can request an EHC needs assessment. This will assess whether your child’s needs are being met by their current school’s SEN provision or whether an EHCP is required. The assessment doesn’t guarantee an EHCP.
- The SENCO, School SEN Coordinator will generally start the process for you. However, if you do not have a proactive school, or as many know, your child masks in school so the school disagree with you, you can request an assessment for your child, applying directly to your L.A. (or as a young person of 16-25 years).
The LA must respond to your request for an assessment within SIX WEEKS. Make sure you keep a note of this date!
Evidence for an EHCP
You will be asked to supply evidence of your child’s needs, academic attainment, progress, the extent of their NEEDs etc. Please, please keep a diary of everything you have noticed, any time you have been called about your child’s behaviour, anytime you have been asked to accompany your child on a trip or they won’t be able to go. As an example in my case, when my daughter was not allowed to be in her Christmas nativity because she couldn’t ‘behave’!
- Find out from your child’s school how they are doing, if they are on the school’s SEN register and what SEN support are they already receiving for them to be able to access the curriculum and keep them on target.
- What levels should your child be at? This doesn’t mean they have to be top of their class! All LA’s have a register of Educational Psychologists that should be called in to assess a child if SEN is suspected. They can also ask for a Speech and Language and/or Occupational Therapy assessments. Keep a record of all your reports and outcomes.
- Get a professional diagnosis where possible, don’t just rely on your suspicions. Things like dyslexia and dyscalculia are closely linked to ADHD. Go to your GP and ask for a referral to CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service). There is a waiting list which can be ridiculously long and sadly why many have to pay to go private.
- Your LA’s website will have a section called ‘Local Offer’. Check this out to see the specifics for your area so you can gather all the evidence and information you need to fill out the application. Honestly, I remember writing out my daughters and then scrapping it and writing it again. It’s important to put in everything you can to prove your case. It can be very stressful. Don’t give up, you can and will do this. Apparently, when you apply for an EHCP you should be offered an Independent Supporter. They are free and should help you. I don’t remember having one.
Many individuals get turned down. The LA may request that an educational psychologist sees your child, or apply after they have a diagnosis. The advice from people who have been turned down is to APPEAL! It will involve some more paperwork but generally 90% of cases that go to appeal win.
Once your LA has agreed to an EHCP assessment they will also start the process of collating all the necessary information on your child. They should include the views of any professionals involved with your child, teachers, SENDCo at school etc, you as the parent and the views of your child/young person. Be as honest and as open as you can.
The 12 sections to an EHCP
A – The views, interests and aspirations of the child or young person
B – The child/young person’s Special Educational Needs
C – The health needs related to the child/young person’s SEN or disability
D – Any social care needs related to the child/young person’s SEN or disability
E – The planned outcomes for the child/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/young person
H2 – Any social care provision related to the child’s SEN or disability
I – The name/type of school or setting
J – Details of any personal budget
K – Advice and information from the EHC assessment
* if the young person is in or beyond Year 9, their EHCP must set out the provision to support them in preparing for adulthood and independent living.
** outcomes refer to the difference that is made to the child by the intervention/provision that was put in place for your child.
The LA will initially present you with a draft EHCP using all the information that has been collated, setting out the needs of your child and what provisions will be required to meet those needs. As the parents/carers you then have 15 days to make comments on the draft.
The outcomes specified should be SMART targets. This means they should be
- Specific – Targets and outcomes should be clear and specific, describing exactly what your child is aiming for, eg saying numbers from 1-20; be able to retell part of a story
- Measurable – Has to be within a time frame or frequency so it can be measured eg will be able to remain in class for 5 mins
- Achievable – Realistic targets that your child will be able to achieve ie not asking your child to read War and Peace in one sitting!
- Relevant – Obviously targets must be linked to your child’s individual needs, and not something that they don’t struggle with
- Time-bound – There should always be a specified date when it is hoped your child will have achieved this specific outcome
An excellent article about this can be found on Special Needs Jungle.
The funding from an EHCP will be given to your child’s school as per section F in the EHCP. If you still feel this won’t be adequate or they are still unable to meet your child’s needs, then this is the time to request a specialist school. This can include schools outside of your LA, if you feel this school would better meet the needs of your child and there is not one suitable within your Local Authority.
My daughter was offered 1:1 support and other provisions for instance, but I knew she needed more. She ended up going to a specialist school with much smaller classes that were well-versed in ADHD. It was a tough decision because I felt she was on the cusp of needing a specialist school or having 1:1 support within a mainstream school. However, after looking around the specialist school, I felt the provisions there were far more tailored to my daughter’s needs than anything her mainstream primary school could offer.
It’s hard not to listen to everyone else’s opinion on what’s best for YOUR child! I even went against my daughter’s mainstream school. who were saying they could cope with her. As I always say, go with your gut and your situation. It’s always very individual. We, my daughter and I, both still feel that we made the correct decision at the time.
Once you have an EHCP your LA must provide funding for any of the supports set out for your child. Normally this funding will go directly to the educational setting named in the EHCP, but part of this could be requested to go to the parents or young person to spend on any support indicated in the EHCP.
How often is an EHCP Reviewed?
An ECHP will be reviewed every year at your child’s Annual Review. This is a legal requirement. As the process can take 8 weeks they are normally scheduled 8 weeks before the anniversary of the EHCP being issued. Should this coincide with your child s transition from primary to secondary then the deadline needs to be brought forward.
The review can be completed at your child’s school by the SENco or your child’s class teacher or sometimes both. Present will be you, the parents/carers, and any other professionals involved, including input from your child. Obviously, if this is too challenging for your child they may just be invited in for a few minutes and not the entire meeting. They will probably be asked what they feel is going well and things that may not be working for them.
During the review, you can change or update the EHCP with any new information, if you feel your child’s needs have changed in any way or if a provision is no longer necessary or if more needs to be done. Section E must be discussed therefore to ensure progress is being made towards the outcomes noted. Some new outcomes may be agreed upon.
If your child is in Year 9 or above, there should be preparation noted for their transitions to adulthood such as higher education or employment, whether they aspire to live independently, housing options, etc.
Things to bear in mind
- Try to work well and build good communication with your school, even if you feel judged. You shouldn’t, but we know it happens. I can’t stress enough, you are the parent, you know your child the best, trust your gut.
- You will get stressed and wonder if the endless paperwork, phone calls and meetings will ever end and if it will be worth it. It will. I remember being on hold for what seemed like hours to CAHMs etc. I was losing the will to live. Then you get through and either: 1. the person you need to speak to is not there so you leave your number knowing that this is pointless and you will be the one calling back in a day or so OR, 2. you get put through to someone else and have to repeat your entire history down to your child’s birthing details, only to be told they’ll have to get someone to call you back ARGH!!!!!!
- It can be really upsetting hearing all the evidence about your child and their needs. I remember it really hit home during the initial review about how many challenges my daughter was facing. It broke my heart. But it was out there. Plain and simple. And I got her EHCP and the help she so desperately needed to thrive, not just survive, in school.
Keep going, keep me posted and let me know anything else so we can share it with others going through this process.
I have started a private support group on Facebook for parents and carers who need support with their child with ADHD. It’s a friendly place to chat with others. Please do click this link ADHDinchildren to join. And for anyone on Instagram, I’m there too ADHD Mum.