Developing aspects of the EHC process

Making EHCPs more accessible

The issue: Families of children and young people want simple EHCP processes that are easy to understand and contribute to.

What have LAs done?

Several services have transferred paper-based EHC plans and ‘About Me/My Family’ forms to online versions. They have used the format of a ‘Wiki’ to do this.

“We wanted to make the EHC Planning pathway more person-centred and for families to feel they had more understanding of what’s in them and feel ownership of the documents detailing their child and support needs”

Wikis are simple, accessible and easy to build personal websites which people can access using a computer, laptop or smartphone. They are secure and password-protected but allow for collaborative development of information and plans.

The Wiki helps services and the child or young person and their families to work together to build up a comprehensive picture of the child and their needs. They can add pictures, video clips, sound files, words, web links and documents to their Wiki.

How have they done it?

In some areas a member of the SEND Team with good IT skills has taken responsibility for Wikis and supporting families to use them. In some cases, parents are completing paper forms but then having them uploaded into Wikis (by the SEND Team administrator) to make them more accessible for future use.

Waltham Forest has a parent who acts as a ‘Parent Champion’ after experiencing this approach to inform and encourage more staff and parents to try them.

What is the impact?

The local services agree that this investment of time and resource is worth it in order to make EHC plans more accessible. However, they can see that Wikis may not be the preferred method for all families and so are not phasing out paper-based versions. They feel it provides as extra offer to help improve parents’ experience of the EHCP process. Watch this video to find out more about Wikis being used in this way.

Developing person-centred plans

Issue: Children and young people and their families families need to feel involved in the EHCP process and have personalised plans

What are LAs doing?

In Middlesborough, the Educational Psychologist (EP) works closely with learners if there are concerns about the progress they are making. She will begin a person-centred approach called a ‘multi-agency therapeutic conversational process’, which involves jointly assessing barriers to learning with the child, their family and everyone else who works to support the child

How are they doing it?

The school will work with the family to identify everyone involved in the process. The EP leads the process as she has extensive experience and professional skills to do so, but also because she is independent from the school and can therefore take a ‘neutral’ approach.

The aim of the multi-agency meeting centred on the child and family is to allow the family to tell their whole story – the child and family history as well as educational experiences, hopes, fears and concerns. The EP’s aim is that everyone in the room understands the family’s experience, what may be leading to difficulties and ways in which they could be best supported.

The school is responsible for recording the meeting and the agreed actions to be taken. The meetings are deliberately well-organised, with time to talk fully, relax and create trusting relationships.There may need to be further meetings to explore issues in such a way that everyone is satisfied with a coherent action plan going forwards, and there will be regular reviews of anything agreed.

Once everyone has agreed what support will best help the family, support strategies are proposed. The whole multi-agency team then agree a) who is best to offer which support to the family, b) what educational provision and support package will best meet the child’s needs, and c) who is best placed to provide wider support (such as Early Help input or housing for example).

The EP gives her guidance on the direction in which the school and family should be heading and helps agree the outcomes they are working towards. However, it is unlikely that the EP will carry out any interventions or support herself. The responsibility for this remains with the school and the members of the multiagency team who agree to carry out different tasks.

What is the impact?

This approach works very well with families who feel distant from the school. It can help build an open, trusting relationship so that all parties work together for the benefit of the child or young person.

Listening to the family story allows all the professionals involved to have a better understanding of the family’s needs and how they can most appropriately support them.

Although it may appear resource heavy (as time is key to the success of the approach), this upfront investment can prevent problems becoming worse, or requiring crisis intervention. The approach also makes support more joined up and coordinated, reducing overlap of effort.

Key Worker role

Issue: Families want to have a main point of contact for information and advice about the development of their child’s EHCP

What are LAs doing?

Nottingham City Council has a designated Key Worker Service, set up to help parents and young people with the EHCP process. Support from the service is only open to families who are in receipt of, or have been accepted into, the assessment and planning process for an EHCP.

Parents and carers have the choice about whether they want a Key Worker. If they choose to have one, contact will be made by the Key Worker Service within 3 days of the request being received.

How are they doing it?

In Nottingham, Key Workers assist families through the EHCP process and look at family focussed outcomes when planning care packages. Key Workers can assist in signposting families to other agencies, or have discussions with other professionals on the family’s behalf in order to match them to additional services.

The Key Worker Service also helps families with planning personal budgets when extra support has been allocated for health or social care requirements.

In Wiltshire, the SEND Lead Worker acts as the key point of contact for children and young people with SEND and their families. Their aim is to ensure that children and young people’s needs are met through their local ‘My Plan.’

SEND Lead Workers come from a variety of backgrounds, including staff with prior experience as Early Years Inclusion Officers, Statutory SEND Assistant Education Officers, post-16 SEND Personal Advisers and Social Care Customer Advisers. This ensures there is a wide range of skills and expertise represented across the staff team to provide support across the 0-25 age range and across education, health and care services.

The role includes:

  • checking which other services/people are currently involved with the family
  • referring the child or young person and their family to other services as appropriate
  • considering existing specialist assessments and ensuring further assessments are requested as needed
  • assessing the child or young person’s needs in discussion with them, their families and schools/settings/other professionals
  • attending reviews, Team around the Child (TAC) meetings and professional meetings as appropriate
  • convening and chairing TACs as necessary
  • supporting the child/young person/family to access information on the Local Offer website
  • discussing options for future pathways
  • ensuring that a My Statutory Plan (the local term for an EHCP) is written in a way that enables the child or young person to be well supported to achieve specific outcomes.

What is the impact?

SEND Lead Workers coordinate activities and act as a liaison point to make sure actions are completed in a timely manner. While it may be the responsibility of another professional to complete a certain action (for example a Speech and Language Therapist to assess the child), it is the responsibility of the SEND Lead Worker to check what is happening and keep families informed of progress. The process has made teams clearer about each members’ role and responsibilities and families’ access to support has also been simplified.

Single point of contact

Issue: Families want information and support about the EHC process to be as simple and easy to access for them as possible

What are LAs doing?

Wiltshire have reconfigured their service so that families can have just one point of contact with local services involved in the EHCP process.

How are they doing it?

A telephone service was set up which can be used by anyone seeking information about supporting children and young people with SEND. People can call it with queries about annual reviews, to ask who the Lead Worker is for a particular child, to request a statutory assessment, to find out whether a child needs a SEND Lead Worker or to discuss support strategies for a certain child, for example.

The helpline is manned by one of the authority’s SEND Lead Workers, who all have a background in SEND and experience of delivering the EHCP process. The Lead Workers take it in turns as the Duty Worker to answer the helpline, which is available weekdays 9am – 4.30pm. Outside of these times, callers can leave a message with the expectation of a response within 48 hours, except on weekends.

The intention is always that the SEND Lead Worker on duty will resolve the call on the day as far as is possible, either by answering the query or signposting the caller to a relevant service or staff member who can help.

What is the impact?

The authority capture data on who uses the service and how it is used. This data is analysed regularly to look for patterns and trends in usage and identify issues arising. Over an 8 month period the service took 1740 calls: 41% were from settings, 31% from parents and 13% from professionals. During this time, 27% of calls were providing general advice, 19% were messages for a specific SEND Lead Worker, 15% were requests for an assessment and 9% were signposted to another service. In total, 113 (6%) of calls lasted 20 minutes or longer.

Quality assuring EHC plans

Issue: Ensuring all EHC plans issued are of similarly high quality

What are LAs doing?

Wiltshire Council has implemented a range of systems to review the quality and consistency of EHC plans being produced locally.

How are they doing it?

Every month a member of the administrative team selects a random sample of 5 plans to be quality assured.

Different members of the SEND Team will work in pairs as auditors to peer review the plans and grade them using a guidance document developed to help support the QA process. The audit uses the Ofsted ratings – outstanding, good, requires improvement and inadequate – to grade key aspects (domains) of the plan. This enables a quantitative assessment of the sampled plans to be made.

Feedback from the quality assurance process is regularly reviewed and identifies areas for further development and improvement in assessment and plan production, as well as where more guidance is needed to improve consistency. The service uses this information in conjunction with feedback on families’ satisfaction with the EHC process.

In Gloucestershire the SEND Team have put in place the role of Monitoring Officer to quality assure EHC plans being issued to children and young people on their caseload. This Officer oversees regular reviewing across all EHC plans issued in the county.

They have introduced a set of criteria against which the quality of EHC plans can be judged. This includes: the level of information provided in EHC plans, the individual contributions to the plan, the appropriateness of outcomes set and targets set to evidence this. A selection of plans from every cohort are regularly checked by a team manager or lead caseworker.

What is the impact?

Reviewing batches of plans has identified some gaps in knowledge and training which have been addressed. Services are more confident that all EHC plans issued are meeting a similar standard of quality.

Developing family-friendly templates

Issue: Ensuring families are able to provide appropriate information to feed into their child’s EHC Plan

What are LAs doing?

The London Borough of Waltham Forest has acted to make it easy and accessible for families to provide information to feed into the EHC process by developing family-centred templates.

“Some parents had struggled to take an active part in the EHC process for their child as they had not known what information they were supposed to provide, didn’t find it easy to provide large amounts of information, or worried about providing the wrong things”

How are they doing it?

The service now regularly works in partnership with local Parent Carer groups to review what information it actually needs to collect from parents during the EHC process, and the simplest way for parents to provide this.

What is the impact?

All templates for collecting information were re-written making them easier to read and understand and as simple as possible for parents and young people to complete. In Sutton guidance was produced to help parents submit All About Me information.

The service also looked at the information displayed on the Borough website about the EHC process and have redesigned and rewritten much of it, with input from local parent networks. They have made all information clear and accessible and ensured that it addresses the issues that parents frequently report having.