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Questions from families about EHCP's
Kirklees Council have recently met with some families who are involved with PCAN Kirklees (Parents and carers of children with additional needs).
This was an opportunity for families to ask questions directly to senior members of council staff about a range of topics.
Below are the questions that where asked which relate to EHCP's.
When the council makes the decision not to agree to carry out an EHC assessment (which is the first step to getting and EHCP), there is a detailed discussion carried out by a large group of people. It can be hard to capture all of this complicated information in the letter we send out. We do agree that we need to work harder on this to make it clearer exactly why we have made the decision we have.
Therefore, we have made plans to improve this by working together with parents and carers to create better letters and improve our communications. SENDACT (the team that carry out this work) would like to hear from any parents or carers who would like to help with this work.
In the meantime, parents and carers can contact SENDACT (either by phone or email) to discuss the reasons we have chosen not to agree to an assessment, the details of how to do this are in the letters that we send out.
The current way that we work is that the LA has meetings to discuss a wide range of children’s cases and these discussions are very detailed. It would not be appropriate to have parents in this meeting as we discuss more cases than just their children’s.
It is worth understanding that at this stage, the decision we make is to carry out an EHC assessment or not, this is not the stage where we agree to give a child an EHCP or not. This decision comes later.
We are really excited to explore how we can develop the way we make decisions to give (or issue) a child an EHCP, which would include parent or carer representation.
We have developed a new “co-production” way of working together. If we have agreed to carry out an assessment, we will then have a meeting with parents or carers and those people involved in assessing or working with the child and together we will make a decision if an EHCP should be issued or not.
We want these meetings to come to a joint agreement which families are included in and feel listened to.
If at this stage, the joint decision is not to issue and EHCP, then we want to make sure everyone is clear as to why and what the next steps are in supporting that child.
Again, we would welcome working alongside any parents / carers who would be interested in supporting us in developing our process of involving parents more.
We are happy to work with parents and carers to improve the ways we share this information and how we communicate this through the letters sent out by the team.
We understand how frustrating this can be, currently the way we work is that we try to capture short, clear reasons for the decisions we make. We do this by taking notes of the meeting (called minutes) and this is then used in the letters. We acknowledge that these notes do not always capture the level of detail that families would like to see.
However, families can contact SENDACT (either by phone or email) to discuss the reasons we have chosen not to agree to an assessment, the details of how to do this are in the letters that we send out.
We are keen to look at the way we do this and communicate and want to work together with families to make this better. If you would like to be involved in this work, please let us know.
We acknowledge how frustrating this can be, but please rest assured we do not turn down EHCPs as a matter of course. We consider each case individually and make decisions based on the evidence and information we have at the time. Last year we agreed to over 70% of the requests for assessment that we received.
In terms of funding, this is something that can change according to the child’s needs which are identified when the first assessment is carried out. Funding is considered at every review and if it is appropriate (due to a change in the level of support required) then it can be changed if needed.
We do acknowledge that we do not always get this right and we are working with those who carry out assessments (such as Educational Psychologists) to make sure they are really clear in saying what support a young person needs so that we can accurately provide the right level of funding.
This is not something that we have specific information about, however the average yearly assessment figures for requests for assessment can help us understand this.
Requests for assessment received: 576
Of these, we decided not to carry out an assessment for 223 requests (we call these DNTA).
Of these 223 DNTA’s, we received some responses asking us to reconsider the request (alongside additional information).
49 of these responses resulted in us agreeing to carry out an EHC assessment.
So including these responses, we agreed to carry out 402 requests for assessment (over 70%).
It is important to consider the reasons why a request may be not agreed to, sometimes this is because the information that has been supplied does not allow us to make a decision (i.e. not enough concrete information), so we will respond to suggest that if more information is provided then we will consider it again.
We are working with schools to make sure they understand how to ensure they provide enough concrete evidence to help us make a decision.
We agree that tribunals cause a great deal of stress and anxiety for all involved and we are keen to avoid them wherever possible. In fact, in Kirklees only 0.9% of EHC requests result in a tribunal, this is lower than the national average of 1.6%.
This means that over 99% of Kirklees requests do not lead to a tribunal.
We always work hard to provide families the opportunity to work with us to ensure a child gets the support they need, but we have to ensure that all decisions we make have strong evidence to support that decision. This can be really hard when families think a child should get more support, but the evidence does not agree with this.
The SEND Code of Practice strongly supports the use of appeals processes (mediation and tribunals) when agreement cannot be reached, this is not something that Kirklees guides families down, but we support families in following the national guidance around appeals.
If a school and parent are agreeing on this, then what it indicates is that the child needs something beyond a mainstream education. SENDACT need to make sure that the school have tried everything they can (including utilising external support or additional funding) to ensure the school really is at the point of saying they can’t meet need.
There then needs to be the consideration for what is the most appropriate setting, this often requires additional assessment (such as from an EP) and for parents to consider what settings they feel would be appropriate.
Once this is done, then this needs to be considered by a multidisciplinary team as to what the most appropriate setting may be.
Following this, the setting (s) need to be formally consulted to see if they can meet needs, as well as if they have capacity at the current time.
This whole process takes a great deal of time, but these are cases where we are looking at a setting which is specialist. We need to make sure we are confident in placing a child in such a setting.
There is then the issue of capacity, there are limited numbers of places in these settings and often the LA has to consider settings which are external to the LA.
This can mean that a setting is not able to offer a place until the start of the next academic year.
This is something that we’re acutely aware of and are working to try to address. Though the quality of foundation provision and outcomes for those with EHCPs are currently very good at Kirklees College, the market is thin, and in particular workplace and vocational-based options for young people with EHCPs is adversely impacted by the economic hit of covid-19.
One of the developments we are currently undertaking is the expansion of Project SEARCH and the development of pre-internship / pre-traineeship provision, through a collaboration between Kirklees College, Project SEARCH, Dewsbury Hospital and Kirklees LA. This is a route into sustained employment involving workplace rotations and job coaching, alongside on-site teaching and learning, and can be undertaken by a young person 18-25 with an EHCP, particularly those with ASD. We are recruiting to these programmes now.
We are also exploring options to widen post-16 provision with alternative provision providers, to provide a more bespoke, workplace oriented provision that may be suitable for young people with primary needs of social, emotional and mental health, cognition and learning and communication and interaction – hopefully from September 2021.