For many parents, Local Authorities and Schools, there appears to be some real confusion over what is expected and what the time scales are when transferring from a Statement of SEN to a Education, Health and Care Plan.
One family told us how their Head teacher advised them that her remit at a Transfer Review meeting was to transfer the information in the Statement to the EHC Plan with minimal adjustments. NO!
Another was told that there was no need for her to attend any meetings, she could just wait for the draft and then advise in writing what she thought.
Even more entertaining (if it wasn't real) was the LA who said "oh we don't specify hours on the draft, we will add them to the final EHC Plan so don't worry". Erm, do worry!!
I could list many, many more examples but instead, let’s talk about what the process SHOULD look like.
It is frightening how many people are having transfer review meetings and saying “Oh I was in and out within half an hour, they even asked what he liked to do” and even more frightening was that they thought that was okay.
We wanted to give you a better idea of what to expect, what should happen and how it is supposed to work. Let’s start with the time scales.
To allow local authorities sufficient time to ensure that additional assessments can be conducted where needed, and a robust EHC plan developed where needed, local authorities must give parents or young people two weeks’ notice before they begin a ‘transfer review’ (an EHC needs assessment) and must finalise an EHC plan, where one is needed, within 14 weeks from the end of that two week notice period.
EHC needs assessment process needs to be completed within 8 weeks. This process is laid out in SEND Regs 2014 Regulation 6. This means that once the Transfer Review (EHC needs assessment) starts, the Local Authority must, if a plan is deemed appropriate, issue a draft plan eight weeks from the start of the assessment process.
- Transfer Timings:
- 2 weeks before EHC needs assessment begins, notification (in writing) to the family
- 8 weeks from the start of the needs assessment to produce (and send to family) a draft EHC Plan
- 15 days from when the draft EHC plan is “served” for families to request a specific school or other institution and/or require the LA to arrange a meeting between them and the LA at which the draft plan can be discussed.
- 14 weeks from the start of the needs assessment to produce (and send to family) a final EHC Plan
When does the process start?
This is the most confusing aspect of the new Children and Families Act. There is a variety of guidance out there.
The “Transition to the new 0 to 25 special educational needs and disability system. Statutory guidance for local authorities and organisations providing services to children and young people with SEN” provided by the Department for Education in August 2014 states:
- “Local Authorities must finalise an EHC plan, where one is needed, within 14 weeks of the notification to the parent or young person that they are carrying out a transfer review (EHC needs assessment).
However, the “Transition to the new 0 to 25 special educational needs and disability system. Departmental advice for local authorities and their partners” issued in March 2015 states:
- “local authorities must give parents or young people two weeks’ notice before they begin a ‘transfer review’ (an EHC needs assessment) and must finalise an EHC plan, where one is needed, within 14 weeks from the end of that two week notice period.”
Then, just to add to the confusion, "The Children and Families Act 2014 (Transitional and Saving Provisions) (No. 2) Order 2014" states
- (Article18) “A local authority that secures an EHC needs assessment under this Part must give notice of the assessment no later than the beginning of the period of two weeks ending with the day on which the assessment begins”
- (Article 21) “finalised EHC plan to be sent as soon as is practicable and in any event within the period of 14 weeks beginning with the day on which the notification under Article 18 was given
However, I am reliably informed that this is being looked at by those in charge and amended regulations and guidance will be published and will clarify that the LA must advise families two weeks before the start of the EHC needs assessment and then will have 14 weeks for the process – so 16 weeks in total.
At the moment, some LA’s are doing 14 weeks from the notification, other 16 weeks. The different advice makes it very confusing for families (and practitioners) but we will let you know as soon as amended regulations and guidance are available.
Before the Transfer Review meeting
Must: The local authority must notify you or your child at least two weeks before it starts the ‘transfer review’.
The notification may invite you to a Transfer Review meeting or it may just say it is the start of EHC needs assessment process.
This is specified in Part 5, Article 18 of the Children and Families Act (Transitional and Saving Provisions) (No.2) Order 2014
Must: The local Authority must also advise of your rights to appeal.
Best Practice: All assessment information used for the current Statement and other updates provided so you can have a proper look through before the meeting to see which, if any, you believe to be out of date. There is nothing worse than being handed a tonne of papers to skim read at a meeting. We have all been there. It isn’t great and it makes you feel anxious. So be prepared.
- Tip: If you have your child’s current statement, this information should be attached so if your LA doesn’t send any copies, dig out your copy of the current statement and supporting documentation.
- Tip: Check how recently the reports were made or updated. Remember that old reports may not be considered as relevant advice by a SEND tribunal.
Best Practice: The questions your child will be asked as part of the EHC needs assessment be provided with the notification. This allows your child time to process the questions and prepare their responses.
- Tip: If you want to know what is important to your child and help them to prepare for similar questions asked in section A “all about me”, have a look at Bringing Us Together’s tips on their One Page Profile series.
Best Practice: Your LA should let you know about the Independent Supporters in your area (Independent Supports provide support and advice to parents during the process) and how to contact them. Many are complying with this but only in very very small print in the middle of a bundle of documents.
Transfer Review / EHC needs assessment meeting
- As part of the ‘transfer review’, local authorities must ensure that the child’s parents or the young person are invited to a meeting to contribute to the transfer review.
- This meeting must take place as part of the ‘transfer review’ in advance of the EHC plan being finalised.
- At least two weeks’ notice of the date of the meeting must be given.
Best practice: This meeting will be at the beginning of the 14 week process (or very near the beginning) so that you and your child can input your views on their needs, provision required, considered outcomes and also if assessment information (from the current statement) is up to date and reflects their current needs at the beginning. It should most certainly be held within the first 8 weeks of the process so you can request further assessments in ample time.
Holding this meeting at the end does not really allow you time to contribute your views, other than as a tick box exercise and that’s not what the Children and Families Act is all about, is it? As per the SEND Code of Practice - 9.22
The assessment and planning process should:
- focus on the child or young person as an individual
- enable children and young people and their parents to express their views, wishes and feelings
- enable children and young people and their parents to be part of the decision-making process
- be easy for children, young people and their parents or carers to understand, and use clear ordinary language and images rather than professional jargon
- highlight the child or young person’s strengths and capabilities
- enable the child or young person, and those that know them best to say what they have done, what they are interested in and what outcomes they are seeking in the future
- tailor support to the needs of the individual
- organise assessments to minimise demands on families
- bring together relevant professionals to discuss and agree together the overall approach, and
- deliver an outcomes-focused and co-ordinated plan for the child or young person and their parents
Who should the LA seek advice from as part of the EHC needs assessment?
They must seek advice and information on
- the needs of the child or young person, and
- what provision may be required to meet such needs, and
- the outcomes that are intended to be achieved by the child or young person receiving that provision
They must seek advice and information from:
- The child’s parent or the young person;
- Educational advice and information—
- the head teacher or principal of the school or post-16 or other institution that the child or young person is attending, or
- where this is not available, from a person who the local authority is satisfied has experience of teaching children or young people with special educational needs, or knowledge of the differing provision which may be called for in different cases to meet those needs, or
- if the child or young person is not currently attending a school or post-16 or other institution and advice cannot be obtained under sub-paragraph (ii), from a person responsible for educational provision for the child or young person, and
- if any parent of the child or young person is a serving member of Her Majesty’s armed forces, also from the Secretary of State for Defence;
- Medical advice and information from a health care professional identified by the responsible commissioning body;
- Psychological advice and information from an educational psychologist;
- Advice and information in relation to social care;
- Advice and information from any other person the local authority thinks is appropriate;
- Where the child or young person is in or beyond year 9, advice and information in relation to provision to assist the child or young person in preparation for adulthood and independent living; and
- Advice and information from any person the child’s parent or young person reasonably requests that the local authority seek advice from.
The SEND Code says that the advice should be clear, accessible and specific (paragraph 9.51).
The local authority must not seek any advice required for an EHC needs assessment if such advice has previously been provided for any purpose and the person providing that advice, the local authority and the child’s parents or the young person are satisfied that it is sufficient for the purposes of an EHC needs assessment.
When should I receive the draft and final Plans?
The draft EHC Plan should be issued 8 weeks after the start of the process. The draft Plan should not name a school or other institution, as you then have 15 days to request a specific school and/or a meeting with the LA to discuss the Plan.
The final Plan should be issued within 14 weeks of the start of the process.
The EHC Plan
In the coming weeks, we will be looking at what the new EHC Plan looks like, what the different sections are and how you can prepare yourself so that when your draft appears, you know what to look for and expect. We'll also bring you our own experiences so far of transfers - and how the differ from the above!
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