4000 and counting: Did you have a satisfactory EHC plan issued last year?

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.

EHCP transfer

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.

Hmm?  How?

  • 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 - info@specialneedsjungle.com

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.

Debs Aspland
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  1. Auntieh123

    If you keep clicking through the links you’ll come to a DfE spreadsheet giving breakdown of figures by authority. Most of the transfers look as though they’ve been done by pathfinders as do (not had time to check thoroughly) most of the new plans. I’m an IS in a pathfinder LA not showing high figures. Every plan I’ve been involved with so far has had to be returned by parents for major amendment due to very poor quality. Therefore deadlines not met.

  2. Kate Chate

    Had our transfer review (year 9) in November (no family feedback forms until after).
    Saw the paperwork that school were sending the SNO.
    Met SNO to explain why I thought ‘Mum thinks that….’ at each answer was not in the spirit!!
    Have heard nothing since. (It’s May).
    School hadn’t seemed to have any guidance to the paperwork (except having read the online guide where they download the paperwork) or introduction to person centred thinking and planning.
    No change in their aspirations for our kids that I could see.
    I’m in touch with lots of parents and even the Independent Advisors son’sEHCP was woefully delayed.

  3. Sharon

    Strangely DfE state that ‘Of the new EHC plans issued in 2014, 64.3% were within the 20 week time limit when excluding exception cases’ – it makes no sense at all and as you say there weren’t 20 weeks from Sept – end Dec 2014, so the figure would have to be 100% for any plans issued in 2014! Ooops, sounds like somebody somewhere has made a bit of a mistake! Or the DfE has some magic weeks between Sept and Dec that we all don’t know about!

  4. Sharon

    Interesting, looking at the transfers from statement/LDA to EHCP, it is only half of the LAs that managed to complete any transfers – so half the LAs transferred 2765 in total while the other half managed 0! Certainly looks like there are differences in the way LAs are working.

  5. Elizabeth Nicholson

    We have received an initial draft but No Specifications were included, No Supportive materials, equipments listed, Only initial diagnosis of ASD included, a confirmed diagnosis of DCD Dyspraxia mentioned within the report but not listed in section 2! Dyslexia screening carried out in 13 also mentioned but not listed. No further assessments re Diagnosis of Dyslexia carried out within test period, even though my son has made very little progress and failed to progress through the most recent bout of acceleread accelerwrite!!! We are now being offered a further in-house screening for Dyslexia with possibility of progressing to further phonological investigation. EP now suggesting Executive functioning at fault and not Dyslexia. as very few indicators to Dyslexia shown on top of an arc score of .9, as .8 would not have pinged up as an at risk score!? My son has proven to be Dyspraxia upon all areas, which by definition would indicate Dyslexic traits!! Or is my reading and understanding so completely incorrect. Completely fed up with the whole system. If this is an improved system, I would hate to know what went before!! Completely deflated and very very annoyed from Eastbourne, East Sussex

  6. Elizabeth Nicholson

    I’m with you Auntieh123 I have completed IPSEAS online training course, printed the New SEN Guidelines (Jan updated version) I can clearly read and comprehend what I am reading but as yet I have not seen an example of what a good plan looks like. As yet I suspect the plan being drawn up fails under lack of specification alone, then if you take into account the scant notice of meetings etc worst being at 7pm the day before EP was due to assess the following morning. Feels like a rushed shambles, awaiting the updated draft, plan to consult with IPSEA etc once we have it in hand. I suspect it may be going back pretty sharpish!

  7. Michelle Morgan

    I have today, after a long SIX MONTH wait since transfer review, received the terrible news that my child’s Statement of SEN will be ceased and he will not be transferred to EHCP. He has just one year of primary school left and all the professionals in his life are agreeing that he will not cope with mainstream secondary school but is far too cognitively able for a special school (ASD/Tourettes). He’s been with his TA for three years and has made so much progress, LA reasons for taking it away include his discharge from OT more than five years ago and because he is showing “some improved social skills” – they have not mentioned the several times a week he cries with anxiety and screams at classmates, or the fact his stammer gets so bad he can’t speak, or that his tics mean he can’t comfortably read, write or listen. Emotionally, my son needs an awful lot of support. It’s disgusting that something we fought so hard for at the beginning is being stolen away because the gatepost has been moved.

    1. Michelle, contact IPSEA or SOS!SEN or the NAS advocacy line immediately!
      The DfE said that NO child would lose their provision in a transfer unless it is no longer needed. You must appeal this decision with the SEND Tribunal.
      For advice and help, one of these organisations above will be able to help. DO NOT accept this. The gatepost has not been moved, the criteria remain the same- the LA is acting illegally unless your child has improved so much he doesn’t meet criteria. “Some improvement” doesn’t sound like that.

      1. Michelle Morgan

        Thanks Tania. Any improvement they see when comparing today to pre-statement is down to the coping mechanisms put in place by his current (amazing) school – my son’s needs exist today as they always have and always will. My LA have asked for comments off us and school, we have both written today stating our disagreement with their decision. I will definitely be appealing LA decision at tribunal should they overlook our comments. They’ve made written comment that one of the considering factors is my sons discharge from occupational therapy which I find to be a blanket policy and have pointed this out in my written response. Fight fight fight!!

    2. Sharon

      Michelle, if you appeal then the LA must maintain the statement (i.e. continue with the provision) until the appeal is concluded. As Tania said, get some advice.

  8. jas

    I have received my final EHC Plan, I have asked for ABA, now no ABA, no Speech Therapy for a completely non verbal child, no OT and no Physio, my so had 20 minutes of ST per week in his statement and 20 hours of OT for a year, now all gone, because I have asked for ABA. What shall I do now? my son didn’t make much progress, as he is still non verbal and severe on spectrum. Also my son had in his statement he needed someone with Sensory Integration Therapy but the school didn’t give him for last two years, as they did n’t read it.

    What shall I do next?

    1. John Murcott

      I think I wrote to you
      before about my daughter getting her transport to college placed within her EHC
      plan by the first tribunal.

      Update: my daughter did
      one year at college then the local authority withdrew transport so I spent the
      next year fighting using every process I could.

      I then thought if I asked
      for an EHC assessment I would be able to get to a tribunal.

      Of course I had to go to tribunal
      as the EHC assessment was nightmare, we or my daughter might not have existed
      as far as the local authority were concerned.

      Not of her needs or
      support were in the draft document and they would not change it, I only
      obtained the final EHC plan by visiting their office and refusing to move.

      The local authority tried
      every way to stop the tribunal hearing, but as I am disabled I managed to stop
      all their requests for this.

      Four days before the
      tribunal the Authority started to agree to all of our amendments.

      Because the tribunal
      placed the transport within her EHC plan the authority had to provide the
      transport again (I am disabled and our other daughter is also disabled this is
      why we cannot transport her ).

      The authority not appealed
      this decision to the 2nd tier tribunal saying that the 1st
      tribunal had made an error in law.

      This complete process took
      nearly 11 months, during this time my daughter was attending college.

      The 2nd tier
      tribunal was difficult the authority came with a solicitor and a barrister, I
      had to make our case on my own.

      The judge was very hostile
      and unfriendly towards myself and my wife, she wouldn’t let me explain properly
      and was knocking down every statement I made before I had finished it.

      It was very obvious from
      the start that she would decide in the authorities favour.

      So once again my daughter
      is sitting at home unable to have access to a basic education.

      Today I have had a meeting
      with an officer from a different council to see a draft EHC pan for my nephew
      who has lost both parents.

      This officer expected to
      finalise this draft EHC plan today.

      No visit was made by this
      officer to obtain views about my nephews condition ( he is very severely
      disabled and has autism )

      No draft EHC plan was sent
      for us to examine.

      The draft plan is very
      small and covers little of his needs and support needed, despite him living at
      a residential SEN college at this moment.

      The officer was very rude
      towards us and when I said we would need some time to examine the draft she
      replied that she would not visit again.

      The F section about needs
      and the provision just listed some basic needs and the provision on all was
      classroom teacher and classroom assistant.

      So once again I am going
      down that long journey of fighting for a disabled persons needs, I am sure this
      will mean another tribunal.

      I think we have done 9
      tribunals in the last 15 years in order to get our daughters needs meet.

      The advice I would give
      anyone is go to tribunal, it may look difficult but it’s worth it although we
      shouldn’t have to do it.

      One more piece of advice,
      don’t employ a solicitor you do not need one at 1st tier tribunal in
      our experience the panel are more friendly if you do not have a solicitor.

      What’s going on in this
      country does no one care!

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