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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- The length of the EHCPs: Parent have stated they are far too lengthy, sometimes over 20 pages.
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!