The Children and Familes Act will change the way that disabled children and young people receive support. From 1 September 2014 Statements of Special Educational Need will change to Education and Healthcare Plans. (EHC)
GAD and our partners, Greenwich Mencap were awarded the Independent Support contract for Bexley and Greenwich to provide families with the one to one support and information needed to take control of the services that they need.
An EHC plan brings a child or young person’s education, health and social care needs into a single, legal document.
Requesting an EHC Needs Assessment
You can ask your local authority for an EHC needs assessment if you think your child needs one. Anyone at your child’s school (such as their teacher) can also ask for an assessment to be carried out. Others who work with your child can also tell the local authority if they think an assessment is needed (such as your doctor, health visitor or nursery worker).
Deciding whether to conduct an EHC Needs Assessment
Once your local authority identifies that your child has Special Educational Needs or receives a request for an Assessment, they have up to six weeks to decide whether to carry one out. During that time, they will ask you and others – such as your child’s school or other setting – for information to help them make that decision.
If your local authority decides not to carry out an Assessment, they need to let you know their decision within six weeks of receiving that request.
Conducting an EHC Needs Assessment
Local authorities need to make sure that you and your child are fully involved in the EHC Needs Assessment. They need to provide you with impartial information, advice and support to help you understand the process and make sure you are properly involved in decisions that affect your child. This may include help from an Independent Supporter who can help you through the process. Greenwich Association of Disabled People provides this service in partnership with Greenwich Mencap in Bexley and Greenwich. (See below for who our Independent Supporters are)
The Assessment includes talking to you and your child and finding out from you what support you think your child needs, and what aspirations you and your child have for his or her future. The Assessment also includes seeking information and views from people who work with your child, such as class teachers, doctors and educational psychologists.
Deciding whether an EHC Plan is needed
After your local authority has made its assessment, having involved you and your child fully in the process, it will then decide whether or not an EHC Plan is necessary. If they decide that an EHC Plan is not needed, they must tell you within 16 weeks of the date they received a request for an Assessment.
Preparing an EHC Plan
If your local authority decides to proceed with an EHC Plan, they should work closely with you and your child to make sure the plan takes full account of your views, wishes and feelings. Once the plan has been written, a draft will be sent to you which must not contain the name of the school or other setting your child will attend. You will be given 15 days to comment on the draft and you can ask for a meeting to discuss it if you want one. At that point you will also be able to request a specific school, or other setting, you want your child to attend. This could be a mainstream school or special school. Your local authority has 20 weeks from the request for the EHC Needs Assessment to issue the final plan to you.
Once an EHC Plan has been finalised, your local authority has to ensure that the special educational support in Section F of the plan is provided, and the health service has to ensure the health support in Section G is provided. This should help to enable your child to meet the outcomes that you have jointly identified and agreed. Your local authority has to review your child’s EHC Plan at least every 12 months. That review has to include working with you and your child and asking you what you think and what you want to happen, and a meeting which you must be invited to.
Families are entitled to request a Personal Budget if your child has an EHC Plan or has been assessed as needing a plan. A Personal Budget is an amount of money your local authority has identified to meet some of the needs in your child’s EHC Plan, if you want to be involved in choosing and arranging a part of the provision to meet your child’s needs. You (or your representative) will need to agree this with your local authority. A Personal Budget can only be used for agreed provision in the EHC Plan.
There are four ways you can use a Personal Budget:
• Direct Payments – where you receive money to buy and manage services yourself
• An arrangement where your local authority or education provider holds the money and commissions the services included in the EHC Plan as directed by you (these are sometimes called notional arrangements)
• Third-party arrangements – where you can choose someone else to manage the money on your behalf:
• A combination of the three ways above
• A local authority must secure a school’s agreement where any provision, bought by a parent using a direct payment, will be provided on the school’s premises.
• Your local authority must include information about Personal Budgets in its Local Offer including information on how to make a request.
GAD is able to deliver a range of services through Personal Budgets – contact us for more information.
Who are your Independent Supporters?
Independent Support Manager - Yvonne Linton
Yvonne started work in the voluntary sector 15 years ago as a volunteer mental health advocate on the acute psychiatric wards of the Maudsley hospital. She stayed in mental health advocacy for many years and then moved into a broader range of advocacy services for people with physical and learning disability, older people, substance misuse problems and young people. For the last 5 years or so Yvonne changed professional direction and moved into person centred planning. Once 'initiated' into person centred practice it became impossible for Yvonne to work in any other way. She is also the proud Mum of two daughters, the youngest of whom has Aspergers Syndrome and for whom she had to struggle for many years to access the right support for her to live an ordinary life. These life experiences made Yvonne deeply committed to developing support that makes sense for everybody who needs it and finding innovative ways of working together for change.
Independent Supporter - Angela Smith
Angela has worked for over 20 years for a number of Disabled People-led Organisations empowering people from Black and Minority Ethnic Communities, disabled women in residential instuitions and young disabled people with high support needs.
She has been on the Management Committee of the Race Equality Foundation for 10 years and is a Trustee of Transport for All.
Independent Supporter - Shahika Ali
Shahika originally was a volunteer with GAD's Advocacy and Welfare Rights team before joining the Independent Support team. She is studying part time for her degree in Psychology.