What does a good description of needs in the ‘Independence’ section look like?

Parent asks:

My 18 year old daughter's statement is transferring to an EHC plan. We have waited over 24 weeks, (despite chasing it) to receive a very poor draft. We commented on the draft and were told new assessments would now be sought and included. One week later, a call from the head of young people's service to say they needed to finalise this plan to show to panel. It would be an 'interim' EHC and would they would add in the assessments later but they now needed to finalise it because it was past 20 weeks!  They eventually backed down and we are ensuring the new assessments are included.

My question is, do you have any links or examples of what a good description of needs looks like in relation to the independence and self help section? My daughter has had a social care assessment and I know this should be included here but it was in a box ticking format rather than written, for her personal budget.


Helen Gifford replies

Helen Gifford answers:

I am pleased to hear that your authority agreed to wait for the extra assessments as, whilst the timescales do matter for efficient and timely completion of EHC Plans, an EHC Plan that doesn't have the necessary detail is not much help for planning or making decisions about your daughter's next placement.

There are two helpful examples of EHC Plans for a young person over school age with complex needs who is going to college on the SEND Pathfinder website. This is a website that collects the learning and resources from the trials before EHC Plans became law and contains example EHC Plans that the Department for Education (DfE) felt were appropriate. You can find this at http://www.sendpathfinder.co.uk/coordinated-assessment-process. You will find a menu of 4 options in red type. Click on the plus by the second one (called 0-25 Co-ordinated Assessment Process and Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan, version 5 October 2014), and the good examples are appendix 1 Portsmouth example EHC Plan (you will need to scroll down over one for a nursery age child first) and appendix 4 Hertfordshire example EHC Plan. To make things easier, I have attached these to this email anyway.

Both of these example EHC Plans have the preparing for adulthood, and developing independence skills running through them for a young person over statutory school age. Your daughter's EHC Plan may look different (and you can see that both these plans looks very different from each other) as every authority is required to develop their own local style of plan in consultation with parents, but they will have the same lettered sections as these are the legal requirements.

I particularly recommend the description of the young person's special education needs (section B) in the Portsmouth example. Developing independence features throughout all the sections here, and it is clear and detailed about the young person's needs.

In both these example EHC Plans, the outcomes in section E are all very focused on preparing for adulthood and developing independence and self help skills, and, whilst set out differently, contain detail of the overall aim, and the smaller steps that will be worked towards to achieve that aim. Outcomes in an EHC Plan are intended to be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound), and to set out the difference or benefit that will be made to your daughter by the provision that is in place. So, rather than saying that she will develop self help skills, the outcomes should be clear about what your daughter will be able to do and when it is anticipated that the support will enable her to do. Each outcome must then have appropriate provision set out in the EHC Plan that will help her to achieve this.

The vast majority of the provision in an EHC Plan that is working towards self help and independence skills will be counted as special educational provision (section F), rather than social care (sections H1 and H2) or health provision (section G), and this is because it is training or educating the young person. This is something to look out for - only the provision in section F has a right of appeal to the SEN Tribunal if you do consider it not to be suitable or sufficient, and that is the only provision that is fully legally enforceable. The provision in section F needs to be specific - a good rule of thumb is to think about whether you can picture your daughter's day in school or college i.e. can you tell from the provision what support and adaptations she will be getting. If you can't, then the provision is probably not sufficiently clear and specific. I think that the Hertfordshire example EHC Plan is the better example of special educational provision in section F as it provides it higher level of detail and specificity.

Don't forget your local Information, Advice and Support (IAS) Service, which used to be known as Parent Partnership. They should be able to help you check that an EHC Plan is sufficiently detailed. IPSEA has a helpful checklist for checking an EHC Plan on the website at: https://www.ipsea.org.uk/file-manager/SENlaw/ipsea-ehc-plan-checklist-2015-april.pdf