What isn’t working in the transfer from Statement to EHCP

What isn’t working in the transfer from Statement to EHCP

By 1 April 2018, local authorities must have transferred all children and young people with statements of SEN to the new SEN and disability system who meet the criteria for an EHC plan. Local authorities must conduct a Transfer Review – that is an EHC needs assessment in accordance with The Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014 (referred to as the ‘SEND Regulations 2014’).

There is guidance for the transition to the new 0 to 25 special educational needs and disability system (Third Edition September 2015) and the primary legislation relates to:

  • Education Act 1996
  • Learning and Skills Act 2000
  • Children and Families Act 2014

My article today follows on from my previous article and most recently, from Helen Gifford’s recent article; Top tips for navigating an EHCP process – for both parents and SEN departments The issues are very similar with the transfers from statement of SEN to an EHCP.

The advice is aimed at SEND case workers, many of whom are SNJ readers. I'm sure very many parents reading this will also have their own advice, based on their experiences. Please do add them in the comments; this is really important to help staff get things right.

I’ve discussed the conversion/transfer process with many people involved in the process. Listed below are some of the areas of concern that I have come across:

  • Staffing: Not all local authorities have a designated team to implement this important and sensitive piece of work. The SEND teams are having to juggle the new with the old and try and convert one to another. Some SEND Officers are having to manage over 100 cases which is extremely difficult to do effectively on a daily basis.
Solution: A designated team is required. The SEND officers cannot convert/transfer, review and assess and provide an effective service, because the child or young person suffers in the end. With the new announcements of the £80 million to boost support for special educational needs from the Government, one way of utilising this may be assisting with the staffing.
  • Notification: Some parents and young people are not informed before the process starts. EHCPs are being shared with families at the transfer review meetings. One parent told me,
     “The transfer meeting was arranged without it been at a convenient time for myself. I am a single parent with two disabled children and needed time to make childcare arrangements. This wasn't taken into consideration. My request for people I wanted at the meeting were not taken into consideration. I wasn't given any information about what to expect in the meeting or how the meeting would go ahead I did all the research myself online.”
Solution: The law says to initiate a Transfer Review, the local authority must notify the child’s parents or the young person and the head teacher (or equivalent) of the school attended by the child or young person of the commencement date of the Transfer Review at least two weeks before it is due to start or even earlier. It may be useful to call parents and/or young person and ask them if they wish to receive the “letter” via email. Head teachers (or equivalent) will probably accept this information via email. The family (or young person) must be involved from the start of the process. Being notified at the meeting is far too late and not helpful.
  • Joint Commissioning: Not all professionals working with family can attend the transfer review meetings, or they do not write updated reports to inform the outcomes and provision. Some Educational Psychologists have even gone as far to say they is 'no money'. Parents are requesting social care assessments and being told the young person is not known to them so they cannot complete the assessment.
Solution: Joint commissioning arrangements MUST cover the services for 0-25-year-old children and young people with SEN or disabilities, both with and without EHCPs. These include securing EHC assessments, provision and personal budgets. The Care Act 2014 also requires local authorities to work to promote the integration of adult care and support with health services.  Parents can obtain advice and support from their local independent supporter service to support them with requesting a social care assessment.
  • Personal budgets: It’s different in each local authority how this is implemented. There is no clear direction for parents or the young person and how they can access this resource. In some cases, it’s not even mentioned at the transfer review. Read more about PBs here
Solution: The personal budget information and how to access it needs to be clear and transparent, there are too many grey areas. It is confusing!
  • Timescales: The timescales are not being adhered to. One parent has reported that a year after the start of the transfer they are still awaiting a final plan.
Solution: Timescales are not long enough. It’s good the Department for Education increased it from 16 weeks to 20, but it would be better to provide more time (i.e. 26 weeks) and get it right, for the CYP.
  • The quality of the EHCPs: The quality of final EHCPs are sometimes poor, with the information from the statement copied and pasted into the EHCP template. The provision (Section F) within the EHCP is not quantified or specified. Writing EHCPs is labour intensive for SEND Officers and they are sometimes constrained by bureaucracy.
Solution: It’s clear when the information is out of date and when it’s current. If there is insufficient information to inform the outcomes, then an assessment may well be needed. Please be cautious. An older teenager may not want “another” assessment.  Always ask them what they think they need to succeed. The provision MUST be detailed and specific. In most cases, it may be the SEND officers writing the EHCPs and will require guidance from professionals to complete this. It is a legal document. SEND Officers want to work collaboratively with parents and the CYP to write a meaningful EHCP.  They need the opportunity to do this by reducing their caseloads. I’m aware that SEND departments have had to face cuts with the austerity measures, but these front line services need protecting. If not, local authorities will pay more with legal costs and there will be a high staff turnover and high staff absences.
  • The length of the EHCPs: Parent have stated they are far too lengthy, sometimes over 20 pages.
Solution: Why not develop an EHCP template for each stage, e.g. Early Years, Primary, Secondary, Further Education and Post 19? This would allow information showing successes to be added at each stage and will enable the young person to see positive achievements as they move to a new template. When an outcome is reached, it could then be a celebration. An EHCP is a legal document, so it must set out all the needs, provision and planned outcomes. However, there is no reason reviews cannot also demonstrate success of outcomes met over the years too.

The impact of the changes is yet to be seen

Education, Health and Care Plans are being issued across England but I have yet to see any impact.  The reformed system needs to be implicitly taught to SENCos studying the SENCo award. Some, in my view, don’t seem to understand the new SEND Code of Practice. As far as I can see, it appears to be numbers over quality and I’m really not sure that it is so far proving to be less confrontational than the previous system.

Parents: I know this is a big ask but parents please try to be patient with your SEND case officers. Of course, they should be offering the best service to you and your son or daughter but sometimes matters are out of their hands. Sometimes they are awaiting decisions from management or decision panels.

SEND officers: Please communicate regularly and at each stage within the process, regardless of whether the news is good or bad. The family/young person will appreciate the update and this will improve relationships.

It is important to have collaboration, active listening skills and a good sense of humour. We know this is a work in progress and there will be teething problems along the way. So let’s whip out the Bonjela and take it one tooth at a time!

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Marguerite Haye
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Marguerite Haye

SEND Advocate at Haye Independent Services
Marguerite is a teacher and has taught for over a decade, in various positions from primary to further education. Marguerite has always had huge success with teaching children and young people(CYP) with special educational needs (SEN). Marguerite left teaching due to the political change in education and was fearful for the outcomes of CYP with SEN.Marguerite has been leading on the transfer from statements to EHCPS in a local authority in the South East and most recently, she is a SEN consultant at local authority in the East Midlands. Her youngest daughter has a long term-illness but was diagnosed late at the end of her secondary education.Marguerite is very passionate about the learner voice and wants to ensure they achieve the best outcomes. Marguerite is hoping that sharing her knowledge and experiences can help all who read her blogs.
Marguerite Haye
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  • Helen Gifford

    Excellent post Marguerite. Absolutely agree. I really like the recommendation of a dedicated transfer team. Caseloads in many places are far too high – I know from experience how impossible it is to do a decent job for CYP and their families with a caseload of over 100. Also, do like the idea of extending the deadline for transfer reviews further, as local authorities seem to be finding it impossible to hit the current deadlines, so they become a notional thing as they will not be met, rather than an actual date to aim for.

    • MJH

      Thanks Helen. Is it possible to email you?

  • disinterestedobserver

    Just completed my 17 year old son’s EHC plan transfer review. Exhausting experience. LEA were only a week late get the finalized plan to me (big tick) I know they have a huge workload (700 plans transferred in 2015-16). I am happy with the content but only because I pored over every single word and phrase and challenged every omission. Usual stuff – burning the midnight oil and cross referencing SNJ and IPSEA. I worry about all the families who are not aware of these sources of help and advice. The aim for us was to protect my son’s specialist provision until the summer after his 19th birthday. I wasn’t much bothered about getting new reports or him having a new assessment. – this wasn’t necessary. However no-one from the LEA ever asked or discussed with us whether we needed/required a new assessment for the transfer. It was just assumed we would use old reports. While this suited us, I was aware that they should’ve at least offered a new assessment. Also, when the plan coordinator transferred his needs from his statement they completely failed to transfer any details of his provision. I spent way to long fussing over my parental contribution, his history and the outcomes that I missed the fact that the SEND provision was 95% missing. This may have also been because SEction F is a long, long way on the form from Section B yet the two are entwinned. This only dawned on my with a week to go when I viewed a friend’s son’s completed plan. Her son has a similar profile and placement. It struck me how tight, specific and nailed down everything was! LEA also failed to include information from a very recent Adult Social Care section 5&6 Assessment. Our excellent IS was brilliant for developing outcomes as I found that process awful and like filling out a council Action Plan. The whole exercise was a bureaucratic nightmare. The evidence of progress and the school’s effectiveness are abundant in all of my son’s annual review reports. For me it was unnecessary hoop jumping and extremely anxiety inducing and time consuming And we still haven’t yet pinned down his final year (year 14) – That will decided by panel in July. So the real decisions that matter don’t take place in the EHC planning TBH. I will say however that our EHC plan co-ordinator was polite and professional throughout.

    • MJH

      Thank you for reading the post and your comments. I’m glad your son has a finalised plan but am concerned about your struggle, even though I know it’s common. I’m trying to create a bank of EHCPs to share with parents as a point of reference. I’ve not seen many examples of completed EHCPs on the LA’s websites, especially at post 16 and 19. Some of the outcomes I’ve seen are uninspiring and extremely patronising. If you are happy to share his EHCP with me, that would be helpful. All information would be anonymised. Thanks again for your contribution.

    • disinterestedobserver

      Hi there. I am a bit reluctant to share his whole plan as my son is 17 and it is as much his info as ‘ours’. There are some sensitive parts which I expect he would not want shared around. I can share Section F and the outcomes. I think the outcomes are a bit ‘meh’ and only reflect a fraction of the input the school is actually providing to support him to develop his independence. It is difficult to reflect high staff ratios, autism-specific whole school approaches, high quality training and depth of experience and understanding in a meaningful way. That is what he has needed and continues to need. What mattered most to us was securing his provision until September 2018 so the whole plan is written with that in mind. In that sense, it is probably an a-typical EHC Plan transfer. He was already in his first year of post-16 when the transfer was carried out. Our plan is 36 pages long! This is mainly due to me over-writing the early sections to make sure everything was in there. I probably overdid it but was too anxious to leave anything out. From our point of view the plan had to be written in such a way to PROTECT and DEFEND his provision for the next two and half years because that it was he needs to achieve his personal goals and outcomes.

  • MJH

    Hi Ben,
    Thanks for commenting. I can suggest strategies to assist you with this, if you would find this helpful? Does the LA process the information once you’ve written it?

  • Christina Cramsie

    Where to start?….. ok my son’s transfer took 11 mths, and my daughters is currently at draft stage. 6mths up to now. For my son’s I was notified during a phone conversation, I received no letter. In fact because I had read up on the process I thought the meeting (which was annual review and transition meeting yr 12 and only supposed to last for an hour) was going to be on another occasion as I had had no letter. In my daughters case we had a letter from school to say it was an annual review, no mention of transition to EHC. Halfway through the meeting someone else asked if it was a transfer and the person from LA said yes. In both cases I received a letter a couple of months into the process saying it has been decided your statement is to be transferred to an EHC. I think the LA are avoiding sending out letters 2 wks in advance in case they decide that they are not going to transfer the statement. When I mentioned it to the LA they said everyone gets letters it must be a mistake that you didn’t get yours.
    It took over 6mths to get an Ed Psych report for my son. I didn’t think he needed one, as he had one that was 18mths old at the start of the process, but possibly because that was a private one the LA said he needed one from one of their EP ‘ S. (Although they accepted the recently done report from a private EP for my daughter – I didn’t want to wait another 6mths for hers! ). My son needed a sensory report as that was over 2 yrs old, but because the NHS doesn’t do them in my area he didn’t get that. At my daughters meeting no mention of reports was made, I wanted a salt report done as she has salt provision in her statement but the dept said it would be too long to wait.
    Both my son and daughter have direct payments, which the LA insist are the same as personal budgets(i have told them that thry arent).The section that should have the social care needs in, actually had the provision in. On both of them. I have asked for a personal budget for my son as he was 16 when his ehc was finalised and was told it would hold up the EHC being finalised. (This is 6mths ago now).
    In my daughters draft there is no way of telling how many hours she has (she had a statement of 20 hrs) it says provision is a SA for maths and English but no mention of other subjects. School say they will put a support assistant in where appropriate. We don’t have a seperate form for parents, just an all about me for children/yp which it don’t think is right. Our LA it’s very stretched and need more staff.