Mark Raeburn, Managing Director at Capita One, looks at the steps local authorities are taking as they enter the next phase of SEND reforms
By April 2018, the old-style statements for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) will cease and all cases will be transferred to an education, health and care (EHC) plan.
With just under a year until the deadline, local authorities are considering how best to implement the transition. To renew the focus on the initiative, the government has announced that an additional £40m will be made available to support councils as they move towards the EHC plans.
A tailored plan
The philosophy behind the EHC plan is that it will span the life of a child from birth right through to the age of 25, and will contain all the records relating to the education, health and social care needs of the child, stored in one place.
As a single record, the EHC plan is designed to grow with the child until they reach young adulthood, preparing them for independence and equipping them, if appropriate, for the workplace. As the child’s needs change, the plan should ensure that the support they receive stays in line with these needs.
The different teams involved need to be able to work together and share key information efficiently and securely about the child or young person with SEND. Technology will be key to supporting this. Some local authorities are looking to provide a secure, central place for all the different teams in contact with a child to record and store relevant data. This might include details of previous assessments, information from the child’s school or college or notes from meetings with the child, their parents or carers.
This central store of information can hold key notes and documentation from other professionals too, such as social workers, GPs or education psychologists. This will help to ensure that an EHC plan includes all relevant details about the child so that informed decisions can be made about what support they might require.
A key feature of the EHC plan is that the views of the child and their family need to be captured and built into decisions about the type and level of support that the child should receive. Storing everything in one place that can be made accessible to parents and carers is an efficient and effective way to enable them to contribute to the evolution of their child’s plan.
One way that councils are addressing this is to introduce a secure, online portal which gives parents the opportunity to check on the progress of their child’s case, quickly and easily, at a time that’s convenient to them. Parents can also upload information that is relevant to their child’s case, and provide evidence to back up an application or to identify a specific need. This approach should reduce the number of telephone and email enquiries from families, as information on the case is held centrally and can be accessed by the various people authorised to see it.
With online access, local authorities can also ask the child or young person to upload their own views into a plan, which is another important element to the EHC plan.
A major advantage of storing data centrally is that local authorities can use this information in the planning and delivery of services. With greater insight into the origins of referrals, it is possible to identify whether these are coming from the families themselves, local health services or schools. Knowing this enables councils to match up service need with service delivery more effectively, and ensure the most appropriate support is put in place where it is needed to help families through the process.
There have been changes to some of the statutory deadlines local authorities need to meet around SEND provision – the timeframes for responding to information requests, for instance. But, with the right tools, on-screen notifications can be set up for practitioners to alert them automatically when deadlines are approaching, and outline what needs to be completed, and when.
There may be both challenges and opportunities in moving children across to EHC plans, but for local authorities, the focus, as always, will be on ensuring that the plans help to ensure timely and effective support is put in place for children with SEND and their families.