In the area of Special Education Needs an important deadline is approaching. All Local Authorities (LA), including Norfolk County Council, are required by law to have transferred all existing Statements of SEN (Special Educational Needs) to Education Health and Care Plans (EHCP) by 31st March 2018.
If your child has a Statement of SEN they should already be in the process of transfer to an EHCP (Education Health and Care Plans). The entire transfer process should by law take a maximum of 20 weeks. This starts with the written communication you should have received giving two weeks' notice of the start of the EHCP (Education Health and Care Plans) Needs Assessment. This EHCP (Education Health and Care Plans) Needs Assessment, known previously as a Statutory Assessment, should be the same thorough assessment that the LA is required to undertake for a child being assessed for the first time.
Just because your child already has a Statement it does not excuse the LA from conducting a full EHCP (Education Health and Care Plans) Needs Assessment when transferring them to an EHCP (Education Health and Care Plans). What should be guarded against is an exercise in copying and pasting text from the Statement into the EHCP (Education Health and Care Plans). In the vast majority of cases this is wholly inadequate from the child's or young persons' perspective and most likely from the School's perspective as well. As part of the EHCP (Education Health and Care Plans) Needs Assessment on transfer, the LA is required to gather relevant information from the range of sources listed in the Code of Practice. This includes psychological advice arranged by the LA should previous advice from an Educational Psychologist be dated or unreflective of your child given a change of circumstances since the report was written. Also updated medical advice and advice in relation to social care provision can reasonably be requested if a concern. Also be on your guard against a reduction in special educational provision arising on transfer to an EHCP (Education Health and Care Plans) without expert evidence to support that decision.
As the deadline approaches there will undoubtedly be pressure within the system to agree to draft EHCPs (Education Health and Care Plans) that are not fit for purpose. You are absolutely entitled to challenge an inadequate assessment of your child's SEN and the associated provision specified by the LA in the EHCP (Education Health and Care Plans).
Mel White offers specialist legal advice for parent/carers of children with SEN. This includes reviews of draft EHCPs (Education Health and Care Plans) as well as advice on challenging LA decisions at Tribunal. Fixed fees are available to make taking legal advice on this important area of family life as transparent as possible. Initial appointments are available for £100 plus VAT. Being aware of your rights in this situation and instructing a solicitor to act on your behalf, even if only for a limited time, is an effective way of unblocking what is currently a confused and frustrating system. And most importantly for your son or daughter, it might be the only way to secure the special educational provision they need.
To find out more or discuss your individual requirements in further detail, Mel White will be delighted to help. During January we are offering free information morning at our Norwich office on 20th January and at our North Walsham office on 27th January. Please call our Norwich office on 01603 693500 for more details and to book your appointment.