Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Facing an Education, Health & Care Plan (EHCP) deadline

Boys at the Tower of London

I’ve been thinking about significance of deadlines. This morning the BBC breakfast show featured a story about the approaching EHCP transfer deadline. This was set by Government for all local authorities to transfer an old document called a 'Statement of Special Educational Needs' to the new Education, Health and Care Plan - a document set out as part of the Children’s Act 2014 to improve things for kids, like mine, who need additional support with their education.

The problem is that come 31st March, there are going to be several thousand children still waiting for their old education statement to be replaced with one of the new EHCP documents. As these are legal documents providing support for child with special educational needs, the worry is, what will happen when this is missed? What will happen to the education of one of my kids, awaiting this transfer and to those like him?

I have recently been indulging in one of the series on Netflix called Reign. It’s a sort of Twilight styled dramatisation of Mary Queen of Scots and her time in France. Queen Mary and her French King rule France and many of the stories of the episodes are around some kind of deadline.

Some of those deadlines are really important for the people of France. For example if the Royals couldn't secure any grain, then people in France were going to die of starvation. Some of the deadlines have less serious consequences, like missing a feast, and others keep moving such as the point when Queen Mary should claim she wants the crown of England.

What will the deadline for the transfer of EHCP's mean to children across England today?

Well the truth is, that it may mean different things to different children. According to the BBC report this morning IPSEA have said that children with the old Statement of SEN will still find the document legal, even passed the deadline and right up until the EHCP transfer actually happens. But it seems like this may be a grey area - a grey area my son may be in.

However the approaching EHCP deadline may have had further repercussions.

In a rush to get grain for the starving people of France, Queen Mary nearly cost her husband the crown of France. She definitely upset several nobles and this had consequences in other areas of the French court.

In an effort to meet the Government deadline, there have been concerns amongst parents that the very complicated process of reassessing the needs of thousands of children and then transferring the needs of a child from one document to another, have unfortunately not been given the amount of time needed for such complicated paperwork.  The rush has created a risk to thoroughness and quality.

According to reports, some parents have found parts of the support for the children missing or that the new document seems to have no resemblance to one they’ve had previously. Could the looming deadline have been responsible for these errors? Could the pushing of information and reports through fast to meet the deadline be what’s happened?

The EHCP transfer is a 20 week process. This means that in order to meet 31st March deadline parents would’ve needed to have started this with their Local Authorities(LAs) at the beginning of November.

At the end of September, I had not received any notice of my son's transfer. Aware of the approaching deadlines and concerned that to meet deadlines, reports or processes may be rushed, I organised with our son's school to get the various professional reports and paperwork ready in advance. This meant that when finally a letter arrived at the end of November, much of the work had already been done by those involved with my son.

There were nearly 250,000 children with Statements of SEN to be moved.  It's a lot, and every year more children need support and more parents are appealing for more support.  Those who work in SEN are very busy people. I was concerned about the quality of reports informing our son's EHCP that may happen if the professionals were given too short a turn around time for them.

It is far more important to me that the right decision is made and the right provision is provided in a new EHCP and that details are transferred over correctly from our existing statement than it being completed by, was may seem to be, an arbitrary government deadline.

For other parents though the deadline is very important. For some parents with children now heading into adulthood, the new EHCP was to provide support for education up to the age of 25. These parents and children may be left in some kind of legal limbo?

Perhaps for some of us the deadline will simply move along. Waiting for the new document will be what needs to happen. I know I would rather wait and get things right for our son, than rush and get it wrong.

Sometimes we have no choices and can't control what goes on around us.  But, unlike Mary Queen of Scots, I'd rather not lose my head over this. I'm hoping to work to get the legal document that will secure my son's right to an appropriate education right. I just hope that I and others are given this opportunity too.


I talk more about EHCP Transfers and special educational needs in general on this interview on Wandsworth Radio - please get in touch with me if you have any questions and I'll help where I can.

You can visit Special Needs Jungle for further information on the Freedom of Information request into EHCP Transfers featured on BBC Breakfast.  

If you need support you can contact Independent Parental Special Education Advice (IPSEA) and book a call back on their on their Advice or Tribunal Helplines

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