Education Health and Care (EHC) plans were introduced in 2014 as part of a comprehensive overhaul of the special educational needs system. They replace statements of SEN, and all existing statements must be converted into EHC plans by April 2018.
Many local authorities have been struggling to complete these conversions in a timely fashion, and Sheffield is no exception. While most families received their plans more or less within the 20-week timescale prescribed by the government, others have been waiting for over a year, and there is now a significant backlog.
Karen Halford, who heads up the Council’s SEN Assessment and Placement Team, explained how her team is addressing this issue:
“Sheffield is working hard to ensure all new EHC Plans and conversions are completed on time, and we believe we have already made improvements compared to the 2015 figures published earlier this year. Over the summer we have had a major focus on clearing the backlog of plans, and the latest data confirms the positive progress we have made.”
“We have also appointed an external Plan Writing organisation who will start writing a significant number of new plans from September onwards. This along with newly appointed SEND Managers will create further capacity in the team to completely clear any late EHC Plans and to ensure all future EHC Plans – both new and conversions – are completed on time.”
But of course, it’s not just about the timescales; parents have also raised concerns about the process of getting an EHC plan, and the content and quality of some plans.
Parent Carer Forum representatives have been talking to parents about their experiences and feeding their views back to the Council. This is now starting to have an impact on staff training, internal processes, and new systems being developed.
Our reps also sit on a newly-established Quality Assurance group, which will carry out regular spot checks of EHC plans and feed any concerns back to the relevant departments.
What has YOUR experience of the EHC process been like? Please let us know!