The information in this post is specifically for England. There are different systems in place in other countries.
What is an EHC Plan?
An Education and Health Care Plan (EHC Plan) is a legal document. It describes the child’s needs with regard to education, health and social care and explains what extra help the child will get to meet those needs. It also explains how the help will support the child in their life.
The unofficial reality – an EHC Plan is a bunch of paper which unlocks funding so your child’s school can and have to give your child the support they need!
Does my child need an EHC Plan?
If your child needs more help than their mainstream school would normally provide, they might need an EHC Plan.
If your child would benefit from one to one support in school either for academic needs or social needs (yes you can get one for that even if they say you can’t!) then an EHC Plan is necessary.
If your child would be better out of mainstream education, either in a specialist provision or elsewhere, or you wish your child to attend a specific mainstream school based on their special needs then it is also necessary to have an EHC Plan in place.
Whilst an EHC Plan does cover health and social care needs, you can not get one unless these needs affect their education.
The unofficial reality – you may have a differing opinion to your child’s school on the need for an EHC Plan for your child. School may not suggest it so you might have to. Schools aren’t always keen on applying for an EHC Plan as it requires money.
How do I get an EHC Plan for my child?
The plan is given by the local authority (LA) after an EHC needs assessment and can be given at any age from birth to 25 years.
Normally it is your child’s school who will ask for an assessment but you can also do this yourself.
Evidence will need to be provided to the LA that your child needs more support than is normally provided by a mainstream setting.
Your child’s difficulties, any support already in place, medical letters, educational psychologist reports etc can all put together a picture of why your child needs help.
After the LA recieve your application for an assessment, they have six weeks to decide if they will assess your child or not.
If they decide to assess then they will gather information about your child’s needs from you, your child’s education setting, an educational psychologist and anyone else relevant.This can take six weeks. During this time you can send in any new information that might help.
After all the information has been looked at, the LA will decide if they will give your child an EHC Plan. They can still refuse at this stage.
If they decide to give your child an EHC Plan then you will first receive a draft plan, so you can decide if you are happy with it and put across your views to the LA. At this stage you can also name a school if you want your child to move schools to somewhere they might be better supported, for instance to a specialist provision or unit within a mainstream school.
If you name a school the LA will contact that school to see if they are suitable for your child.
You can also ask for a personal budget so you have more control over how the funding is spent to help your child.
The LA might also decide to refuse your request for an assessment for an EHC Plan. They will do this if they feel there isn’t enough evidence that your child needs one or if they feel a mainstream setting can meet your child’s needs without one.
You would have the right to appeal that decision provided you do so within two months of the date on your decision letter, or if you opt for mediation (a good idea), one month from the date of the mediation certificate.
If the LA decides to assess your child and then refuse to give them an EHC plan, they have 16 weeks to let you know in writing. You will have the right to appeal this decision.
The unofficial reality – often parents fight for years for an EHC Plan for their child. Don’t expect school to be on the ball with your EHC Plan application, they may need frequent reminders to push it through. Don’t believe it if you are told that you can’t apply yourself. Once it is with the LA don’t think that everything will just happen. Paperwork can go missing, send everything recorded delivery or by email. Ring and speak to them to stop your child’s file sitting on a desk and back up phone calls with written emails. Keep an eye on dates and remind them you are aware of the date you are meant to have a decision by. Remember those that shout loudest get heard! If your application is rejected then go to mediation, often, if you take enough evidence, this is enough for the decision to be turned round. You can also, and should appeal. If you know your child needs the support an EHC Plan will bring then don’t give up fighting!
Who can I contact for help?
There are various helplines and people you can talk to for advice at any stage of getting an EHC Plan for your child. The following are just a selection but may be able to help.
Contact for families with disabled children:
You can call their helpline on 0808 808 3555 or contact them via their facebook page for advice.
Their advice line provides legally based information and advice on any educational issue that is the result of your child’s special educational needs or disability. They offer half hour appointments by phone, during which their advisers can give you information on the law and give you advice on what to do next. You can book an appointment on their website, call 01799 582030 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The National Autistic Society:
The Autism Helpline can be contacted on 0808 800 4104. They provide confidential advice and support. Whilst they might not be able to specifically help, they will have information on who you can talk to for help.
Your child’s SENDCO:
Some school SENDCO’s can be very helpful.
Your local Information, Advice and Support service or Parent Partnership:
The name of this service changes depending on where in the country you live. The service offers impartial information, advice and support to parents and carers about education of their children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities and your local council will have information about them. They can even provide someone to attend meetings and mediation with you.
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