Last week, the Department for Education released its Statistical First Release - Statements and EHC Plans.
This statistical first release (SFR) publishes data from the annual SEN2 data return, which is mandatory for local authorities to complete. The return is the only source of data to report on all statements of SEN and EHC plans maintained by individual local authorities.
All exciting stuff, given that we started the change to the Children and Families Act in September. How was it going? Looking at the comments on our Facebook page and in a number of groups we are members of, we expected the figures to reflect that most Local Authorities appear to be challenged by the introduction of the new Act and instead of rushing in where angels fear to tread, they had been taking their time - hopefully just to ensure they are getting this right.
However, as soon as we started reading, we could feel our eyebrows starting to rise. Surely these figures were inaccurate. Maybe we were reading them wrong. Maybe we had misinterpreted them.
New EHC Plans
In big bold letters on the first page, they proudly announced
The number of new EHC plans issued between 1 September 2014 and 31 December 2014 was 1360.
- The new legislation came into play in September.
- The new process takes 20 weeks.
- September 1 to December 31 is 17.5 weeks.
So how did 1360 EHC Plans get issued within 17.5 weeks?
Transfer to EHC Plan (from Statement or LDA)
Again, in nice bold letters, the DfE announced
The number of EHC plans transferred from statements of SEN or Learning Difficulty Assessments (LDAs) was 2,765.
So to comply with the 14 weeks (for a statement) or 20 weeks from an LDA, in which to do this, this must mean that on 1 September, 2,765 families were contacted and given two weeks notice that the transfer assessment process was due to start and 2,765 families had assessments reviewed and new assessments carried out so that every part of the EHCP could be filled in, met with the school or LA to discuss their views and aspirations, and 2,765 EHC Plans were all finalised the week before Christmas. No one challenged, disagreed, took a bit longer to go through a draft plan, nothing. It was all tickety-boo.
Now, call me sceptical but I find it hard to comprehend how this happened?
What parents are saying to us
We are contacted, almost daily, by families who are experiencing problems with the transfer to EHC Plans. Families being given the wrong information, families told that the transfer is merely a transfer of information from a statement to an EHC Plan, plans being sent to families that are not specified or quantified, families being told that the specifics only go in the final version and not to worry their pretty little heads about it, families starting the process and 26 weeks later still haven't received a draft Plan. The list goes on.
Now, we are not so naive as to believe that the parents contacting us reflect the experience of every family out there, those who are very happy may just take their satisfaction and get on with their lives, but we have had enough contact to query whether the figures released by the DfE are a true reflection of the new process. We appreciate that the DfE can only take the figures given to them by local authorities, but surely someone there must be scratching their head along with us?
If the figures are accurate then surely, there has to be a question of whether the new Plans are actually of good quality, were co-produced with families and are legal? Do they comply with the Children and Families Act? Have they followed the guidance in the 2014 Code of Practice? Or are they plans which have merely had the information from the Statement transferred over, without looking at whether the child's needs have changed?
So many questions
- How many of the new EHC Plans are those which were transferred from a Pathfinder Plan?
- How many of the transferred Plans were from LDAs? Many families seem to be experiencing problems with this. If you have an LDA, you must ask for a transfer, it is not automatic.
- How many of the new EHC Plans fully involved the families - and not just a tokenistic, "Tell us what he likes doing," type chat/questionnaire?
- How many of the EHC plans complied fully with the process?
- How many of the EHC Plans are just rehashed Statements?
- How were more than 1000 Plans issued within 17.5 weeks?
- How were almost 4000 Plans transferred a week before Christmas?
- How many families had seen the Local Offer and were able to use it to help choose services for the outcomes their child has on their Plan?
What has your experience been?
Let us know, we really want to hear from you.
- Is your child now the proud owner of an EHC Plan?
- How involved were you?
- How involved was your child?
- Did you discuss real outcomes for your child?
- Did you see the Local Offer during the process?
- Did you use the Local Offer during the process?
- Did you have a chance to fully discuss your child's current needs and aspirations?
- Did your LA keep within the time scales of the Children and Families Act?
Get in touch, either by commenting below or by emailing us - firstname.lastname@example.org
And we would especially really like to hear from any of the families who are proud owners of an EHC Plan by December 31 2014 that they are completely happy with because we would like to hear your experience. The DfE has promised to pass on some happy customers which we are really looking forward to because examples of good practice is sorely needed. If you are such a family, please tell us.