All statements of SEN should be converted to EHC Plans by April 2018. In theory EHC Plans should improve support for children with SEN, but we are hearing tales of poorly written Plans where local authorities are not following the correct process, or are not including health and social care. We asked solicitor Samantha Hale what parents should look out for.
A good EHC Plan should be clear, concise, understandable and accessible to education providers and practitioners as well as to the parents and child or young person.
Our experience is that Plans are too brief in the description of the child/young person’s special educational needs (Section B), which has an impact on the provision that is then included to meet the special educational needs (Section F).
A good EHC Plan should have an accurate and detailed description of the child/young person’s educational needs included in it.
You should ensure that it covers aspects relating to the child’s communication and interaction; cognition and learning; behaviour, emotional and social development; sensory and physical needs; and medical condition
Detailed and specific
Unfortunately, the provision in Section F of EHC Plans is often not specific or detailed enough. It is should be clear exactly what is being provided, and, where appropriate, by whom and how often, to meet all the needs identified.
For example, it should not just say a child will have access to a speech and language programme, but should say if it includes direct speech and language therapy, and if so how often/how long for, as well as who will be reviewing and implementing the programme, and anything else the provision should include.
If the child does not receive the provision detailed, a good EHC Plan will assist in a legal challenge against this.
We have also seen EHC Plans being drawn up wrongly, such as including educational needs in the description of health needs (Section C), and the provision to meet the need set out as health provision (Section G). One example of this is speech and language difficulties/provision, as the courts have previously established speech and language therapy is an educational need and not a health need.
A good EHC Plan should therefore have speech and language therapy included in Sections B and F, which give parents a better level of legal protection to appeal the provision, or challenge it if it is not provided.
Name a suitable school
EHC Plans should also include the type and name of the school that is suitable to meet the child/young person’s needs. An EHC Plan will, of course, only be considered to be good if the parents and child/young person are satisfied that the school named is in fact suitable.
What makes a good EHC Plan varies for each young person depending on their individual needs. We recommend that parents seek legal advice when they receive an EHC Plan, so that they can get specific advice and assistance with any appeal.
Samantha Hale is a solicitor specialising in Education, Community Care and Public Law at Maxwell Gillott http://www.maxwellgillott.com