What you told us about your EHCP experiences. Now tell us how it should be!

A few weeks ago we asked you to send us your EHCP transfer or application experiences, however it's been, to help us build up an up-to-date picture of what’s going on around the country. As well as a clear picture of experiences, we're searching for good practice ideas that we can share. We'd especially like to hear from you if you have a personal budget to go along with your Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) or your child's SEN Support,

Sadly, good practice has not been much in evidence, so we are going to devise some of our own tips and include any you send in too.

Despite what I've heard of “some people” thinking we’re "too negative" at SNJ, we are honestly reflecting what parents are telling us and what we are experiencing ourselves. We don’t have any bias and we are not paid to do this. As Debs says, We live this, We DON’T do it for a living.  Hence, you can be sure that what you read on this site is the honest truth as we have been told by parents and by, believe it or not, many practitioners. If you don’t agree, we encourage you to please use the form below and tell us your experiences and we will be happy to publish them. More than happy. We can only publish what we are told and it is always our aim to reflect opinion and offer useable resources and tips.

Below are some extracts of the responses we have received so far. Again, if you want to tell us your experiences, whether you are parent, carer or young person or whether you are an education, health or social care practitioner or an LA SEND staff member, please tell us using the form at the end. We’re going to pass everything, in full, to the DfE.

After all, short of any structured national accountability system, how else can you feed back?

ehcp - what you told us. text as image

Once again, we want to not only flag up poor experience, but help everyone learn the best way forward from positive stories so don't think that just because your transfer went well that we don't want to hear from you. We do.

So, for today, here’s the good, bad and downright ugly and next week we’ll bring you some top tips. If you have some, send them in too. Parent tips for good practice are in bold, so you can pick them out.

It’s clear that the deadlines initially imposed proved impossible to meet and still fulfil a half-way decent Education, Health and Care plan. Evidence is showing that when a plan is completed close to the deadline, it only contains elements for the education section. [See new transition deadlines here]

When the situation gets more tricky and there is health or a social care need, then it appears that those elements are sometimes either ignored, assessments are refused, or an attempt is made but chaos ensues and timetables are chucked in the bin.

However some families don’t even managed to get out of the starting gate:

"I applied for an EHCP for our 9-year-old son diagnosed with ASD, dyspraxia, sensory processing difficulties and anxiety. He has been a school refuser for three years and has not attended school at all for six months. It took six weeks for the local authority to acknowledge the request and then 13 weeks to make a decision whether to assess. The application to assess was turned down and I am now appealing. My son is missing out on education.”

It seems one LA not only missed the 20 week deadline, it missed everything else as well:

“Our EHCP exceeded the 20 weeks. Parental recommendations were excluded. Final and draft appeared to be a synopsis and snapshot of the information shared. Private reports excluded we were told couldn't be used till Tribunal… Our tribunal dates are [not for months] My son is unable to attach himself to learning and he is so far behind his peers. The school support us. The system is failing my child! Ironically the school has an excellent OFSTED. The EHCP in our eyes is no better than the Statement process and we feel massively let down.”

 Yet again, training is flagged as an issue:

“My LA seem unclear what is required in the EHCP, and even when a meeting occurred to discuss, they seemed confused what should go in each section of the plan. In the first draft plan they also stated their aim was to improve his hearing, which is an unrealistic comment to a hearing-impaired child who has full support from bilateral aids, FM system, and a teacher of the deaf. I do not feel there are clear guidelines with a nationally agreed structure for content of the plans- it appears to be each individual’s interpretation of the documentation.”

This parent didn't have to fight as much as was common under the old system. She had to fight twice as hard...

“Had to fight to get an Educational Psychology reassessment (old one was 8 years old). The Fifth request via a formal letter stating the law to LA worked. However, the EP assessment wasn't worth the paper written on… Not one professional has proved advice for the EHC, all provision in EHC has been our suggestions/requests and we've had to fight for every one.

LA has been antagonistic from beginning, [about the placement]… We may as well have not provided our/son’s views as no one had looked at them. Never had a multi professional meeting. The LA could not provide any info on the EHC process or on suitable provision that wasn't in their geographical area. The whole process has been delayed so long that suitable settings now have no places for this year. Son at local college for now, with no EHC plan, but college has been very good and at least we seem to be getting the right support academically, but nothing (yet) to address soft skills issues.  

“It’s clear that our case worker does not understand EHC process at the first meeting repeatedly telling us s/he was not responsible for getting health and social side of EHC . We have made an official complaint about the way our son's EHC has been handled. Still in progress… It is clear that until there is a cultural change, the LA's become accountable for their actions (or lack of) and health/social professionals are legally bound to be part of EHC assessment), nothing is going to change. 

“I can see the education provision being an improvement with the EHC (we have finally got support who know about ASD) but the social care/health side is looking as thought it is going to be woefully inadequate/non-existent. What is the point of a well-educated generation of children if they have not been equipped with the skills to live life?”

 And inadequate drafts from an LA that was supposed to guide other LAs how to change over to the new system:

“We have had to have two lengthy transition meetings because the LA do not know what they are doing, neither does our case officer. We have just received a draft EHCP without any part F completed so cannot possibly accept this. So it continues and our case officer has been away as well for the first two weeks of term so not contactable. The whole process is just dreadful and x LA has failed as for being a pathfinder.”

 This parent sent in extremely constructive comments from her experience.

“The LA officer cut-and-pasted the objectives from his old statement and the provision to meet them from his old statement into the new format!!

We and the school put a lot of effort into the transfer review paperwork and the LA simply ignored it. If I had accepted the draft then the school would be expected to get a strapping 15-year-old would-be brickie to sit on a blue wobble cushion to improve his postural stability. That was useful provision when he was a wobbly age 9 but with puberty came muscles. I get the feeling the LA has employed temps with basic IT skills and no training to meet the deadlines.

"The person writing the plan should (a) talk to the parent (b) read the paperwork (c) have some basic training.

“The writing of the child's assessment for their needs for Part A was the cornerstone of making other people involved listen to the child or young person’s voice. Funding or access to people able to provide this service [Independent Supporters] is needed to be on-going, not just for 2 years.

"Medical link officers: None appointed by my LA when EHCP process started. I, in effect, became the medical link getting reports and saying what the reports should contain. Should there not be templates at least so parents can know what should be included?Lack of trained EHCP coordinators seemed to be an issue as these were still being recruited or were on placement so came and went. EHCP coordinators who had experience were good, helpful and easy to contact.

The LA seemed able to leave sections off their standard EHCP template compared to that used by other authorities who put these on the internet. Need some sort of consistency. 

School: I think it will take a generation i.e. 10 years, to align teaching and schools with the new EHCP system (but so far there is) No additional finance, limited training for staff.

EHCP not covering university, only further education. I think this is a huge issue as it discriminates against allowing those people with special needs but capable of a university education to progress into society.

The law needs to change back to how originally drafted [In the Green Paper] before the Government changed it.

Direct Payments: What these can be used for needs to be brought into the 21st century. Too restrictive. Better guidance needed as used differently by different LAs.

Equality Act and exam access arrangements: Still solely in the hands of the school not the LA. Information provided to parents and pupils needed to be more easily accessible.”

Our SNJ advice helped this parent understand what the law was. Unlike her LA.

"My daughter’s last Statement was issued in November 2013, hard-won following tribunal. In March 2014, the LA invited us to have a draft EHCP because she was 16 … A draft EHCP was agreed, with home based provision from [a charity]. Review meetings started in April 2015. Alarm bells started ringing when I received this from the senior SEND officer, "X has a learning difficulty assessment which does not sit within the new SEN Code of Practice legislation (as X’s statement has lapsed)….So the LA decided to dumb down the statement to a draft EHCP which they then renamed an LDA! No wonder the figures for EHCPs are falling.

“However, thanks to SNJ, I was armed & responded with this [with the legal position]. Four days later I received the draft of an EHCP without any response to what I had quoted to them. My daughter is now attending college with an EHCP. Had I not challenged the LA, they would have got away with this illegal practice…”

This parent experienced slow assessments and a copy-paste provision.

“The EHC process started on 8th January 2015 for my son, 16. It is still ongoing. In April the LA decided my son needed a new EP assessment [but] the EP didn't do the assessment until July and I haven't had the finished report yet.

"So they have sent me a "pre draft EHC". All the outcomes in the plan finish in 2017. An example of one is "x will achieve his academic potential, be able to attend mainstream further education and be successful in his chosen career". It looks as if there will be a miracle happening in the next 2 years! There are 10 outcomes, (none of them aspirational). They are matched up with 27 provision sections in section F. [Each provision section] …has the same sentence. "Support to be provided daily. x's progress monitored regularly by the school closely through graduated process Assess, Plan, Do, Review cycle. A statutory annual review to be arranged by the head teacher in partnership with x/his parents".

"As you can see I will be providing amendments and changing most of it! When they dreamt up this "plan" they didn't use the new EP done by their LA, but they also didn't use the private report that I had done in August 2013. It is really stressful because now my son has gone on to 6th form and college this should have been done so they know how to support him."

And she has words for warning for other parents:

“I must just add that my son has input from CAMHS and social care. When I shared your post a friend said she found the process quick and easy. Her son only has the educational side in his plan, which is probably why it was easier. Also the LA did not request any extra reports (although his last EP report was 4 years ago). A lot of parents do not know what to look for (they didn't with statements either) i.e … provision not specified and quantified. They think as long as they have that piece of paper it doesn't really matter what is on it. This friend is also in the same LA as myself and I bet she has the same provision listed ands in my draft just repeated over and over again for each section!”

I have to say that in my personal experience, the poor experiences are most commonly derived from ineffective or insufficient training in the new system and SEN officers being simply overwhelmed. While I can only speak for myself, I have seen a real desire and willingness to do the right thing, but it is unacceptable to expect LA SEND staff to be able to manage such a huge workload of new applications and transfers when they have not been shown how to work in co-production with parents and, crucially, in the legal aspects of the system. This includes writing legally compliant documents, especially in the case of Post 16 teams (which there shouldn't be anyway any more, it's a 0-25 system after all.)

I’m going to take the tips from these parents kindly sent in and add them to others we have gathered to make a top tips for practitioners making an EHCP post. If you’d like to contribute, use the form below, which you can also use to add your experiences. Don't just complain, work with us to spread good practice and improve the new system.

Thank you for your participation in helping to make the SEND system work better for everyone. If everyone, on all 'sides', pulls in the same direction, then we can help to improve the experience for other families.

Add your experiences and tips here. Tip: Copy what you've written to your clipboard before hitting submit, in case there's a transmission problem - this way you won't lose anything you've written (and neither will we).

Tania Tirraoro

We LOVE to hear what you think... please take a minute to add your views here, so your comment is seen by all!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.