Education, Health and Care Plans
This process describes the process followed in Gateshead in order to decide whether a child/young person is eligible for an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHC Plan).
Requesting an EHC Plan needs assessment
In most cases, children and young people identified as having complex SEN will be referred for an EHC Plan needs assessment by a relevant professional, for example a Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO), teacher, educational psychologist, or health worker. However, parents and carers can also ask the Local Authority (LA) carry out a needs assessment - see contact details at the bottom of this page for further information. It should be noted that if a request is made, it does not mean that a needs assessment will definitely go ahead or that an Education, Health and Care Plan will be provided. The local authority will carefully consider whether a graduated approach at SEN Support has already been provided and progress has not been made before deciding if a needs assessment is needed.
How long it takes to decide whether a needs assessment will go ahead
The LA needs to decide whether a needs assessment will go ahead within six weeks of a referral being received. The decision whether to go ahead with a needs assessment is made by the LA's SEND Service Manager. If they feel that there isn't enough evidence to decide whether the needs assessment will go ahead, the request will be considered by the SEND Panel for a second opinion.
What happens during needs assessment
If a needs assessment goes ahead, the LA asks the child's parents/carers and the young person for their views as well as assessments (known as 'advice') from a range of people such as the head teacher, SENCO, early years provider, health care professionals, Educational Psychologist, a qualified teacher of the visually impaired or hearing impaired, or social worker.
They need to submit this information within six weeks and the SEND Panel then decides whether an EHC Plan will be issued. If it is, a draft EHC Plan is circulated to all involved. An action planning meeting is then held to discuss the child's needs, what support will be allocated to the child/young person and the outcomes the child should achieve as a result of the intervention being provided. Parents/carers and the young person (if aged over 16) will be invited to this meeting along with all of the people that have provided information during the assessment stage.
The following documents highlight what happens at each key stage of the 20 week EHC Plan process and an A-Z of key contacts:
How it is decided what level of support a child receives
The support a child receives is based on their individual needs. In most cases, educational needs that have been identified can be met from the school's Element 2 funding, however, the SEND Panel will consider whether the child/young person might require Element 3 funding, a placement at an Additionally Resourced Mainstream School (ARMS) or a specialist school/college placement. The SEND Code of Practice states that the child's parent or the young person (if aged over 16) has the right to request a particular school, college or other institution and the LA must comply with that preference and name the school or college in the EHC Plan unless:
- it would be unsuitable for the age, ability, aptitude or SEN of the child/young person, or
- the attendance of the child/young person there would be incompatible with the efficient education of others, or the efficient use of resources.
In addition to the special educational support a child/young person needs, the SEND Panel also considers if the child/young person has any health and social care needs and this information will be included in their EHC Plan.
What support is available
The support a child receives is based on their individually assessed needs. If they have an EHC Plan the kind of support you can expect them to receive in Gateshead is described in more detail on the following pages:
How support is reviewed
Annual review meetings are held where your child's progress will be looked at, plans for the next term/year will be discussed, new aims and targets will be set and changes to the EHC Plan will be made if necessary; for example if they require more or less support. This will include any support they are receiving across education, health and social care. A formal annual review meeting must be held for children/young people with an EHC Plan.
Children who are looked after by the LA (Section 32 of the Children and Families Act 2014) will have a Care Plan which includes a Personal Education Plan (PEP). The Care Plan statutory reviews should be timed wherever possible with the annual EHC Plan review.
If a child is classed as a 'Child In Need' under Section 17 of the Children's Act 1989, a review is required every 6 months. Again, this review should be timed to coincide with the annual EHC Plan review.
What you can do if you disagree with a decision made by the LA
If you disagree with the Local Authority's decision about an EHC Assessment or Plan, there are 3 things you can do:
- Arrange a meeting with Local Authority officers to discuss the reasons behind a decision and try to agree a way forward.
- Request mediation via the LA's SEND Team.
- Appeal to the SEN and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST) - if you wish to do this, you must apply to the Tribunal within two months of receiving your refusal letter.
Single Route of Redress Trial
What is the National Trial?
The Government are extending the powers of the First-tier Tribunal (SEND), sometimes referred to as the 'SEND Tribunal', to make non-binding recommendations about the health and social care aspects of Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans as part of a two-year trial. The trial will apply to decisions made or EHC plans issued/amended from 3 April 2018.
To date, you have only been able to appeal the educational aspects of EHC plans. The trial gives you new rights to request recommendations about the health and social care needs and provision specified in EHC plans, in addition to the educational aspects, when making a SEND appeal. This gives you the opportunity to raise all your concerns about an EHC plan in one place.
It is only possible for the Tribunal to consider the health and/or social care aspects of the EHC plan where you are already making an appeal in relation to the education aspects of the EHC plan and the education aspect must remain live throughout the appeal.
What does this mean for parents and young people?
If you are unhappy with a decision not to issue an EHC plan, or with the special educational content or placement in the plan, you can make an appeal to the SEND Tribunal. This trial now gives you the opportunity to also request recommendations about the health and social care content of the plan at the same time. This will mean the Tribunal will take a more holistic, person-centred view of the needs of the child or young person.
This does not prevent you also complaining about other aspects of your disagreement through other complaint procedures. You should seek advice about the different routes available, including from your local Information Advice and Support Service (IASS).
If the SEND Tribunal makes a recommendation about health or social care elements of an EHC plan, this is non-binding. The local authority and/or health commissioner is generally expected to follow such recommendations, but they are not legally binding. Where they are not followed, the reasons for not following them must be explained and set-out in writing to you and to the Department for Education through the evaluators. If they are not followed, you can complain to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) or Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) or seek to have the decision judicially reviewed. Further information on the roles of these bodies can be found on their websites.
When can a parent or young person request recommendations about the health and social care elements of an EHC plan?
You can request the Tribunal makes recommendations about the health and/or social care aspects of EHC plans as part of an appeal relating to:
- the description of the child/young person's special educational needs in an EHC plan
- the special educational provision specified in an EHC plan
- the school or other educational institution named in an EHC plan
- a decision by the local authority not to issue an EHC plan
- a decision by the local authority not to carry out a re-assessment for a child/young person who has an EHC plan
- a decision by the local authority not to amend an EHC plan following a review or re-assessment
- a decision by the local authority to cease to maintain an EHC plan
What does this mean for local areas?
The Trial places responsibility on local authority SEND teams to:
- Inform parents and young people of their new rights through decision letters and the local offer
- Provide evidence to the Tribunal from the health and social care bodies in response to any issues raised within the timeframe set by the Tribunal, seeking permission to bring additional witnesses to the hearing as necessary
- If a recommendation has been made, send the health and social care response letters to the evaluators at SENDletters@IFFResearch.com.
It also places responsibility on health and social care commissioners to:
- Respond to any request for information and evidence within the timeframe set by the Tribunal
- Send a witness to attend the hearing as required
- Respond to the parent/young person and the LA SEND team within five weeks of a recommendation being made, setting out the steps they have decided to take or giving reasons why they are not going to follow the recommendation.
How can a parent or young person request a health or social care recommendation?
If you wish to appeal against a local authority decision on any of the grounds above and want to request that the Tribunal considers your concerns about the health and /or social care aspects of the EHC plan, you should follow the normal process for bringing an appeal to the Tribunal and tick the box on the form relating to a health and/or social care appeal. Advice on making SEND appeals to the Tribunal and the appeal form is available on the Gov.uk website and further guidance can be found in the trial toolkit of support.
Taking part in the evaluation
There will be an independent evaluation of the trial to inform a decision on whether the new tribunal recommendation powers should be continued after the trial. The evaluation will run alongside the trial, from January 2018 to March 2021.
It is important that the evaluation is based on robust evidence, and the evaluators are therefore strongly encouraging participation from parents and young people. This could include taking part in a telephone or online interview just after the appeal hearing (or when the appeal process has been completed, if earlier), and then a follow-up interview six months later. These interviews will help the evaluators to gather the views of parents and young people on the appeal process, as well as identify how recommendations have been implemented and what the (early) impact has been.
Parents and young people that take part in the trial will receive a letter from the Tribunal explaining more about the evaluation and how their personal data will be stored confidentially and how it will be protected.
As a parent or young person, do I have to consider mediation as part of the trial?
Before you can register an appeal with the Tribunal, you must contact a mediation adviser within two months of the LA decision you wish to appeal and consider whether mediation might be a way to resolve your disagreement with the LA. If you want to appeal only about the school or other institution named in the EHC plan you do not have to contact a mediation adviser.
You can go to mediation about the health and social care elements of an EHC plan, but this is not compulsory. You can request recommendations about health and social care issues without having to receive mediation advice or attend mediation about those issues, provided there is also an education issue about which you are appealing.
Once a mediation adviser has been contacted, or once you have taken part in mediation, you will be issued with a certificate. This will be necessary if you are still unhappy and wish to progress to an appeal with the Tribunal. An appeal to the Tribunal must usually be made within two months of the decision about which the appeal is being made or one month following the issuing of the mediation certificate, whichever is the later.
If mediation resolves the educational issues, you will not be able to appeal to the Tribunal on any health and/or social care aspects of the EHC plan. However, mediation provides an opportunity for us to resolve disagreements and it can be completed more quickly than an appeal. It does not affect your right to make an educational appeal, and some aspects of the disagreement can go to appeal even when other aspects are resolved.
Help and further information
- A guidance document on the national trial is published as part of a toolkit of support
- Gateshead's SEND Information, Advice and Support Service
- The evaluation of the trial is led by IFF Research working with Belmana.
For any questions or to get involved please get in touch with them at SENDtrial@IFFResearch.com, freephone: 0800 035 6051.
What happens if a young person with an EHC Plan is detained in youth custody
explains what arrangements are in place in Gateshead to ensure that relevant support is provided to young people with an EHC Plan who are detained in youth custody.
The world of SEN can be confusing but there are lots of people who are trained and experienced who can help you through the assessment process and help support you and your child.
If your child has SEN but does not have an EHC Plan, don't worry, there is still lots of support available to them.
Gateshead's Family Information Directory has a Local Offer section holding information about the advice, support and services available for parents with children with SEN or disabilities in Gateshead.
By registering your child on the Gateshead Network of Children with Disabilities they will receive free or discounted access to leisure centres, swimming pools and cultural and historic places of interest in Gateshead.
A variety of inclusive and accessible activities are available for children, young people and families at Gateshead Children's Centres.
Find out what support may be available to you as a carer of a child with a disability.
The Council for Disabled Children have published an easy-read factsheet for parents explaining the SEND reforms and a series of fact sheets, films and posters are designed to help children and young people understand some of the key themes of the new reforms including EHC plans, Post-16 support, the Local Offer and making decisions.