For the avoidance of doubt or for those who may be unfamiliar with the UK and it’s education system in general, I will outline what an EHCP is supposed to do.
All children and young people who have a learning difficulty/disability which makes it difficult for them to access education and need more specialist help than a typical child or a child with educational needs over and above that which the school/college is usually expected to provide from their nominal budget, should be assessed for an EHCP.
As it stands, if a child has a relatively low-level learning based difficulty/disability/need, their school would be expected to fund specialist support out of their own budget before making an application to their local authority for additional top up funding.
The Governments own website outlines the EHCP in more detail: https://www.gov.uk/children-with-special-educational-needs/extra-SEN-help
Rather succinctly this little gem sums it all up in a very appropriate nutshell:
educational, health and social needs and set out the additional support to meet those needs
So there you have it!
Hopefully this makes things clearer to you than mud (please read that in an ironic tone) but the whole EHCP process is such a lengthy, demoralising fiasco, so forgive me if it’s still murky. Anyway, I digress….
EHCP stands for Education and health care plan. I’ll say it again and in bold, just in case and for the avoidance of doubt:
EDUCATION AndHEALTH AndCARE
Let’s take a moment for that to sink in.
Okay then. Got it?
If you saw those words at the top of an important document, with your child’s picture beaming out at you from the front page, what do you think you might expect to find reading on?
I may not be the sharpest tool in the box, no contender for Mastermind or MENSA but even I don’t need a dictionary or google translate to understand those 3 little but ever so important words.
I would expect a to-the-point, concise yet detailed report outlining what and how all my child’s EDUCATION, HEALTH and CARE needs could be best met.
I would assume (& yes my dad did teach me the adage about assume making an ass out of you and me) that such a document would clearly state what steps/methods/therapy or such like would be put in place to accomplish this and help the child achieve the best possible outcomes, uniquely tailored to their own specific requirements.
There would be bullet points stating identified needs. And to each of these there would be a response detailing how those needs can be met, who would provide the support and how. Quantifiable, specific. Defined.
As you may have guessed by now and if you have read my previous blog posts: (https://definitelynotthewaltons.com/2017/10/07/how-do-you-sleep-at-night-part-1/) and https://definitelynotthewaltons.com/2017/10/08/how-do-you-sleep-at-night-part-2-😡😡 we lost our educational tribunal case as the judge decided after hearing the evidence that we couldn’t prove a waking day curriculum (residential school mon-fri) was solely necessary on educational grounds, which is the ONLY aspect of the case he could rule on.
The judge however did stipulate verbally on the day of the tribunal hearing itself and in his subsequent summation that there is a clear, identified need for both the bodies representing children’s social care and health (ie CAMHS) to step up to the plate and that a tri-funded agreement would have been in our son’s best interests.
Regrettably because the latter 2 aspects are not enshrined under current legislation and despite the overhaul of the whole statementing process which took place in 2014, leading to the creation of EHCP’s, the judge was not able to rule on any other factor than education and he also had to balance his judgement with the best use of public funds.
We found all this out last October but there has been so much other assorted 💩going on in our lives that I’ve needed time to step back, lick my wounds, retreat, repair and decide what to do next. It is still an ongoing process.
So as it stands, it turns out I really should have listened to dear old Dad because assuming anything positive about the EHCP process really did make me an ass.
I naively thought the 3 very specific words of education, health and care would formulate the basis of MY child’s frame work of specialised education.
That those in authority and tasked with facilitating the EHCP would recognise not just his needs but his fundamental RIGHTS to access appropriate care and support to his emotional, social and educational needs as an entirety. Ha!
Essentially it seems MY child’s needs are pretty much irrelevant in the document that stands as HIS EHCP. Furthermore how his needs interplay and merge with those of ours as a family – because we are a functioning (debatable!) unit – seem totally irrelevant.
How egotistical of me to think all these things should be reflected and factored in as a holistic approach in his plan?! I think wishing for unicorns and rocking horse sh%t would have been more achievable.
As I was succinctly reminded the local authority do not have a duty to provide the best possible outcome for our son or our family, just an outcome. So let’s disregard what could have been a fantastic opportunity; a way forward that would promote his independence, resilience, friendships and enhance every aspect of his life.
Let’s ignore the fact he’s bright and potentially capable of achieving highly academically (as stated by an independent professional) Lets disregard the lack of ‘real’ life contemporaries, social skills and tasks pertaining to daily living that would best be achieved by supporting him in a residential school placement. In fact let’s knee cap him before we even start.
Because what we wanted for our son costs too much… and shame on me for appealing to the powers that be that providing the best possible support in EDUCATION HEALTH and CARE right now would reap dividends in the future.
I was told by “management” that long term goals/achievements aren’t even considered when looking at the costs right now!! So what the bloody hell is even the point????
Silly, silly old me! Bottom of the class for me. Do not pass go, do not collect £200 and straight to the jail!
Only we are not playing a fun game of Monoply (if the way you play Monoply is anything like the way my lot do, I accept I might be playing fast and loose with the word fun) I suppose if we are using paradigms as an example, we should choose The Game Of Life as a better synonym.
Forgive me if I’m coming across a little over zealous with the italic button. But the unhappy little fact is, we aren’t playing games and our story isn’t unique.
We are talking about REAL life, REAL children, REAL families being put through the mill and being spat back out again. Crushed, devastated, lost.
In fact those 3 words above would far better sum up the plan that is now recognised as the official EHCP document, prescriptive and responsible for shaping my child’s future.
Our legal representation has reviewed the decision made in law and reluctantly concluded there have been no errors in interpretation of the legal aspect. And just because we don’t like the decision, it doesn’t give us the right to appeal.
I’m still deciding what to do next and how best to proceed but in the interim if we refuse to accept and send him to the school stated in the plan, then we are in breach of the law and could face a fine and/or prison sentence. It saddens me beyond belief that legally I cannot do anything other than comply obediently in the interim.
The irony is not lost on me that on 24th October 2017, the Minister of State for Education department in the UK – Robert Goodwill – issued a statement advising that with effect from March 2018, every local authority in the county should ensure that all EHCP’s encompass the health and social care needs of the child in addition to those of education.
Whilst this is not mandated in law, a previously trialled scheme of 17 local authorities demonstrated an overwhelmingly positive response and therefore Robert Goodwill has announced that it should be adopted as best practice on a trial basis going forward for the next 2 years.
So, I can tell you and more importantly, the bean counters in their ivory towers: I won’t retreat, withdraw or go quietly. Of that you can be sure. One way or another I’m coming for you.