Why Preparing for Adulthood outcomes, from the earliest years, must be an integral part of the new national EHCP template.

with Julie Pointer, NDTi

You may be aware that work is going on on developing a national template for the Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), so that they are truly portable for children moving between areas, to remove local anomalies and so medical professionals in specialist healthcare centres, such as Great Ormond Street and similar, aren’t wrangling with many different EHCP templates.

It’s especially important for EHCPs for 16-25-year-olds, who may be in further education, a supported internship or other training, to bring greater clarity to the support they need. Preparing for Adulthood (PfA) is “golden thread” throughout the SEND Code of Practice, particularly in section 8.

Today, Julie Pointer, programme lead for children and young people at the National Development Team for Inclusion, explains why preparing for adulthood must have a high profile in a national Education Health and Care (EHC) plan and in any changes to the SEND Code of Practice (CoP) and the law that might follow.

For many years, we at NDTi eat, sleep and breath all things PfA. Colleagues of mine were involved in helping the Department for Education to develop Section 8 of the Code of Practice, Preparing for Adulthood from the Earliest Years. Several of us were involved in various national programmes trying to support a smoother process for young people with additional needs and their families, as they move into their adult lives. This included Valuing People, Transition Support Programme, Getting a Life and Aspirations for Life.

A bit of history

The PfA outcomes came about as part of the Valuing People programme in 2009. Through this programme, Getting a Life spent time talking to young people with the most complex needs, and their families, across the country to try and unpick why gaining employment for this group was such a challenge.

Not surprisingly, participants told us that employment was only one of the ingredients to having a good life, but they also aspired to have friends and relationships to be valued member of their communities. They also wanted the chance to develop their independence and to live somewhere of their choice with people they wished to live with. They wanted to have the right support needed to stay as healthy as possible in their adult lives. From this work, the four PfA outcomes were formed:

  • Employment
  • Friends, relationships, and community
  • Independent living
  • Health

So, what young people and their families wished for was the same as every other young person and their families.

Since the SEND reforms first came about in 2014, from the Pathfinder days through to business-as-usual, NDTi has been working non-stop to continue to raise awareness and profile around those Preparing for Adulthood outcomes. We do it because we know it works, but most importantly because it resonates so clearly with the thousands of young people and their families we’ve talked to over the years.

The current picture

Across the country, local authorities have tried to ensure that Preparing for Adulthood is embedded in their EHC plans and reviewed at Year 9, as it says in the CoP. But we’re still not there yet. We continue to provide support and training around PfA through the programmes we’re involved with and have developed a plethora of resources that support people working in local areas.

While I think we have a lot to be proud of for the work we’ve done, we still know that across the country young people are denied the right to attend their reviews, to have a voice in their futures, and to express their opinions about what matters the most to them.

Parents/carers frequently contact us to ask about their young person’s Year 9 review because they haven’t been given any information on what to expect and how it must differ from previous reviews they have attended. Our official helpline finished when our funding for PfA ceased but we still answer emails and calls regularly from young people and parents and carers.

What we want from the national EHCP template

We know some local authorities have great EHCP templates. Others welcome the opportunity to provide some consistency across the country for children and young people with SEND and their families. We urge policy writers to ensure that Preparing for Adulthood outcomes are embedded in the new national plan in a way that’s understandable and accessible to those to whom the plan should belong—young people themselves.

Ask young people about their four areas of need: communication, and interaction; cognition and learning; social, emotional and mental health difficulties; and sensory and/or physical needs, and they will often look at you with a blank expression. But when you ask what they need to be prepared for a happy and successful adult life, they know exactly what that is.

Most EHC plan templates use the four areas of need in section E, but that doesn’t seem to be helpful when developing holistic outcomes in preparing for adulthood. Children and young people are not receiving the right support at the right time and families across the country are still having to fight for support, re-telling their story repeatedly.

Follow the law - it’s there for a reason

The Area SEND Inspections have highlighted many problems with EHC plans, both about the voice of young people and about outcomes. Local areas that take a person-centred approach, following the legal requirements around Preparing for Adulthood, report much better engagement with young people and families. They also have positive feedback from professionals and providers in terms of a plan that is useful and includes the voice of the young person.

With the Ofsted/CQC inspections looking at Preparing for Adulthood as their thematic review from January 2024, we have an even greater opportunity to push Preparing for Adulthood higher up the agenda. Let’s be bold here and do something different. Otherwise, nothing will change.

Preparing for Adulthood outcomes from the earliest years must be an integral part of any new national education health and care plan template.

About Julie Pointer

Julie Pointer qualified as a social worker in 1985. She has worked across the sector for many years both as a social work practitioner and in more senior strategic leadership roles. Julie has worked at NDTi for 10 years, initially as the PfA programme lead and then as the Children and Young People lead. Julie believes that a rights-based approach is the way to go and that all children and young people should have the same opportunities to grow and flourish into an adult live as independently as they can, with purpose, positive relationships as active citizens in their communities.

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