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13 Feb

What is an Education, Health and Care Plan?

A guide for parents and carers

Are you looking to arrange extra support for your child’s special educational needs, or to place them in a suitable school? An Education, Health and Care Plan - also known as an EHCP - can help.

In this EHCP guide, we’ve outlined the key steps to assist you through the process, with everything you need to know to get started.

From the EHCP meaning and benefits, to how to apply, and information around funding, you’ll find valuable information around parents’ commonly asked questions.

What is an EHCP?

An Education, Health and Care Plan is a legal document that outlines a child or young person’s support needs in terms of special educational provision, health and social care. It is designed for people aged up to 25 years.

Containing lots of detail about your child's needs, an EHCP needs to clearly state what action must be taken by parents, schools, colleges and local authorities, in order to achieve each of the specified goals.

Certain sections of the EHCP are required by law, so that the requirements can be legally enforced, which gives you extra peace of mind in protecting the best outcome for your child. However, there isn’t a fixed format, so each plan will look different. You’ll be supported by your local authority in putting it together, so you can take their lead and follow the template they usually adhere to.

What are the five stages of an EHCP?

The five stages of an EHCP are as follows:

  • Identifying the child or young person’s needs - in this early stage, schools and local authorities can help in determining the individual support required for both the child and the family. This is when the decision will be made to commence an EHCP and a request made for an assessment
  • Obtaining an EHCP assessment - this is when professional advice is sought from various authority figures and bodies, around what your child’s education, health and care needs to consist of. An independent supporter will be recruited by the local authority to be present at each stage and give impartial advice throughout the process
  • Creating the EHCP - this includes putting together a draft plan and liaising with your local authority on any changes that need to be made before the final document is put together with the proposed recommendations. You will need to include your child or teenager in this process, making them aware of what the plan means and allowing them to contribute to decisions, where possible and necessary
  • Implementing the final EHCP - once the EHCP has been put together, it is the responsibility of each specified person and service provider to carry out their obligations. Everyone needs to collaborate in order to fulfil their commitments and ensure that the plan is on track to meet its goals
  • Reviewing the EHCP - the plan will need to be revisited at least once a year, conducting formal reviews to ensure that the steps are being carried out to the required standard, the child’s educational needs are being met and they are progressing as expected

We will go into more detail of these steps below.

What are the benefits for a child with an EHCP?

An EHCP gives you more choice over your child’s educational setting, along with the potential of additional support and funding.

Whatever your child or teenager’s unique needs are, the plan will aim to meet those. They could get extra help in a variety of areas, such as school related physical or personal care difficulties, whether that’s related to movement, eating, dressing or using facilities. 

The benefits for a child with an EHCP also include them feeling less isolated and having their own peer group, in a school or college attended by others children and young people with similar needs.

Ultimately, an EHCP aims to ensure that your child or teenager is happy and thriving in their learning environment.

EHCP funding overview

EHCP funding largely comes from local authorities, as costs can be beyond what many families are able to afford. The funding is usually provided directly to the school or college, so that they can have the provisions in place for the required educational support.

The money may sit with a local authority or school, or in some cases, direct payments might be made. This allows you, the parent, or another chosen person, to organise the required support. If you or your chosen person is not deemed fit to take responsibility for the funding process, the local authority might refuse a direct payment.

As long as you request it when the draft plan is created, your local authority is required to support you in putting together the necessary personal budget for your child’s needs. The only instance in which they wouldn’t be obligated to provide this is when a larger budget is already in place with another body (such as the NHS) to cover the educational provision.

How to apply for an EHCP

An EHC needs assessment will be required before an EHCP can be created. You can contact your local authority for a child up to 16; or teenagers and young people aged from 16 to 25 years can request an assessment themselves. Alternatively, another person can request an assessment on behalf of a child, such as a doctor, health visitor, teacher or family friend.

You can work with your SEN teacher/SENCo to apply for an EHCP. If you want to read more about how to apply, you can visit the IPSEA (Independent Provider of Special Education Advice) website. You will find information there on getting a formal diagnosis or assessment, financial information and how to obtain legal and tribunal advice. You can view templates, such as an EHCP example for autism or other special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

You will be informed by your local authority within 16 weeks if an EHCP will go ahead.

Can a school refuse a child with an EHCP?

A school can refuse on certain grounds, such as if they are unable to meet your child’s needs, or are unsuitable for their age and abilities.

If the child or young person’s attendance would impact on the efficient use of resources, or on the efficient education of other pupils, this may also be given as a reason for refusal. In any case, the local authority will need to prove any reason why a setting isn’t able to accept your child.

An alternative setting should then be suggested by your local authority. If you don’t agree that this school is better suited for your child, you can write to your local authority to explain why, providing evidence. In the case that the EHCP has already been finalised, you can appeal the decision over the school identified for your child, through the SEND Tribunal.

If your child doesn’t have a required formal diagnosis within the EHCP, for example for autism, the specialist school might not be able take them. In this case, you can seek support from a specialist education provider to obtain this and/or consider other options tailored to their needs.

Support is available

Our specialist schools and colleges across the UK offer safe and nurturing environments where your child can continue to thrive and experience positive change, whatever challenges they are facing. We offer bespoke packages for each individual child, so that their specific needs are catered for.

We support young people with a range of needs, including autism, learning difficulties, and social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs. Helping children to reach their potential and take steps towards a happier, more confident future is our highest priority.

Aspris Children’s Services also has a dedicated Parent Liaison Officer who can offer knowledge, guidance and a supportive ear. For more information on the EHCP process or to speak with Celia, please email celiaalexander@aspris.com or call 07930 325 069.