The Education, Health and Care plan: Is your local authority ready?

Mark Raeburn, managing director of Capita One, examines the factors local authorities need to consider in implementing the next stage of the SEND reforms.

LOCAL authorities are currently working towards ensuring that all children and young people on an old-style SEN statement are transferred to an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan by April 2018.  

Children's minister Edward Timpson recently announced an injection of £40m in additional funding to help shift the transition up a gear and support local authorities in implementing the changes.

But what difference will an EHC plan make to the way services are planned and delivered for children and young people with SEND and their families?

A single, living plan

The changes are designed to provide a single plan for children with SEND from birth through to the age of 25, which encompasses their education, health and social care needs. An EHC plan will evolve with the child, helping to ensure that the most appropriate support is put in place for them, at the earliest point, as they progress from their Early Years setting, right through their education and into the workplace.   

One way to manage this effectively is to have a single, secure place in which the different practitioners involved with a child or young person and their family can record and share key information, such as details of previous assessments, notes from meetings with the family and education information from schools and colleges.

Those local authorities that can provide a central store for data from multiple sources, such as an education psychologist, healthcare practitioner or social worker, for example, will be much better placed to ensure teams can create an EHC plan that will meet children's needs as they change over time.

Voice of the family

ImageAt the heart of the EHC plan is the requirement for local authorities to capture the views of families so they can be taken into account when decisions are being made as to what support is most appropriate. Parents and carers should also have easy access to the information they need to engage in the development of the child's EHC plan.

Some authorities are planning to introduce an online portal to manage this, allowing parents to check the progress of their child's case when and wherever they want and keep up to date with the support on offer. An online option also allows parents to upload information relevant to the case and provide additional evidence to support their child's application.

This means fewer phone calls and emails going back and forth as everything is in one place and can be accessed by those authorised to see it. Taking an online route provides scope for councils to invite a child or young person to add their thoughts, views and experiences into a plan too, where appropriate, which will help to ensure that the support put in place meets their needs and aspirations.

Driving efficiency

One of the key challenges for local authorities in managing EHC plans is in meeting the various statutory deadlines, such as those associated with completing assessments and responding to requests for information, for example. Technology can add value here too, with on-screen notifications that alert practitioners to approaching deadlines and help them to manage their responsibilities.

With a central store of data, local authorities have a wealth of information that can be used to plan and deliver provision for children and young people with SEND. Gaining insight such as where referrals are coming from - if they are originating from schools, health services or parents themselves, for example - can help staff identify patterns in the type of provision being delivered locally. This is essential for ensuring that the right support is available to children and families, where it is needed.