Education and Health Care (EHC) statutory timescales – update on progress and improvements
In Gloucestershire, we are working hard to ensure we are meeting the statutory timescales for completing EHC needs assessments and, when agreed, issuing EHC plans. The full process must be completed within 20 weeks. We continue to face challenges with our timescales but we are making progress.
What is our data showing?
This academic year to date (1 September – 30 November October 2022), 30.2% of new plans have been issued within the 20 week timescale. This compares to 23.3% during the 2021 calendar year.
As part of our Local Area SEND and Inclusion Strategies, we are progressing improvements that will have a positive impact on ensuring our children and young people with SEND are receiving the right support at the right time.
Local and national challenges
Significant challenges to meeting statutory timescales are faced both locally and nationally. These challenges include the increase in the numbers of requests for assessment and the low number of Educational Psychologists trained and available due to the cap on training places nationally.
As at 1 November 2022, 5,329 children and young people aged 0 to 25 had an EHC plan maintained by GCC. In addition to those with an EHCP, there were 493 children young people undergoing assessment or at draft EHCP stage as at the start of November 2022.
During the 2021/22 academic year, 1,080 initial requests were made for an EHC needs assessment. This is an increase of 279 (31.5%) compared to the previous academic year when 821 requests were made. The number of requests has continued to increase over the last three academic years. This academic year to date, 118 requests have been made.
What improvements are we implementing?
In January 2023, we are launching an improved EHC assessment and planning pathway. This has been coproduced with parent carers, SEND Services, schools and education providers that focus on the following areas:
- Ensuring children and families are at the heart of all we do;
- Regular opportunities for education settings to identify children on the Graduated Pathway with unmet needs and devise an action plan;
- Improved communication with parent carers at regular points during the assessment and planning process;
- A digital portal that provides efficiency and transparency at all stages of the EHC assessment process.
The improvements outlined above are designed to ensure every opportunity is taken to ensure all areas of the Local Area SEND system are working collaboratively and effectively for children and families.
Full details of the improved EHC assessment and planning pathway will be available towards the end of January 2023.
EHCP 20 week timeline - what happens when a request to assess is received?
Weeks 1-6: The EHCP Service process the request and gather evidence so that a decision can be made. This must be completed within 6 weeks of receiving the request.
Comprehensive evidence submitted at this stage which demonstrates how your child’s education setting has followed the Graduate Pathway and involved teams supporting SEND such as Advisory Teaching Service, Educational Psychology Service, Occupational, Physiotherapy, Speech and Language Therapies, positively impacts the efficiency and effectiveness of decision making and timescales from this point.
Weeks 6-12: When a decision to assess is agreed, your child’s EHC Casework Officer co-ordinates the assessment process with all the contributing teams to ensure a full understanding of your child’s need is provided from across education, health and care. This will include:
- The child’s parent/s
- The child or young person – their views, wishes and feelings
- The person who has submitted the request if not the parent i.e., the school
- People in your child or young person’s current educational environment, usually the class teacher, SENCo or Headteacher.
- A representative from social care, usually a social worker
- A health care representative, such as a paediatrician
- An educational psychologist
- Any other professional involved with the child or young person that the LA thinks is appropriate
- Any person the child’s parent or the young person reasonable requests
Weeks 13-16: Your child’s Casework Officer gathers the information, from the sources outlined above, into a summary of advice for the EHC Panel. If the EHC Panel decide to issue an EHC Plan then it must issue the draft version by week 16, sending a copy to parents and all those who contributed to the EHC Needs Assessment.
If the EHC Panel decision is to not issue an EHCP then it must notify the parents of this decision and of their right of appeal; this must be done by week 16.
Weeks 16-19: Between week 16 and week 19 your child’s Casework Officer will use the Draft Plan to consult with the school preferred by parents and other schools the local authority feel could meet your child’s needs and consider all responses.
Week 20: Your child’s Final EHC Plan with a named education setting should be issued.
Further information is available on Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) | Glosfamilies Directory.
Your child’s EHC Casework Officer will keep you up to date with progress on the assessment and explain if there are any delays affecting your child’s assessment.
If you have any concerns, please contact your child’s Casework Officer using the contact details they have provided.