“As a parent or carer, having a high quality EHCP that is up-to-date is crucial.”
All too often, the voices of the child, parents, and carers get lost in EHCPs. As Kent County Council introduces Invision360’s Online EHCP Audit Tool, we hear from Kent Parents and Carers Together (PACT) forum’s, Vicky and Alison, on their hopes for a more unified approach to EHCPs.
Alison White, Chair of Kent PACT and Vicky Evans, Operations Manager of Kent PACT, have spent much time advocating for parents and carers of children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). As such, they work directly with Kent County Council and its partner agencies to make sure the voices of parents and carers influence how services are designed and delivered. Therefore, their voices and experiences are incredibly important to the roll-out of the Invision360 tool.
Before we learn more about their hopes for a far more streamlined approach to EHCPs, we listen to their account of the current challenge.
As a parent, what does it mean for a child to have an up-to-date and high-quality EHCP?
Alison: “As someone with first-hand experience supporting a child on an EHCP, it’s essential. In many instances, the child’s learning difficulties preclude them from understanding what certain decisions mean. Unless it’s clearly written down and easy to see the support that the child needs and why they need it, carers will be floundering trying to help them.
“As a parent or carer, having a high-quality EHCP that is easy to understand and up-to-date is crucial. After all, the EHCP should be the key document that a family can use and say to someone else, ‘read this, and you’ll understand what my child’s care needs are.’ My son has recently been around lots of new professionals. I always give them his hospital passport because I know it is as up-to-date as possible. It would be ideal if his EHCP contained this information.
“Unfortunately though, many EHCPs are many months out of date (some even up to 2 years), especially where there has been a Key Stage transition or a change of setting. Having an up-to-date EHCP would certainly be more reliable and incredibly useful.”
Vicky: “I echo what Alison says. Professionals change all the time, and a lot of the ‘knowledge of your child’ goes with them. An up-to-date, high-quality EHCP is a vital document for any new social worker or therapy lead to pick up and build an accurate picture of the child.”
What are the benefits to parents and carers in using a tool that’s standardised and benchmarking against other local authorities?
Alison: “The question often comes up from parents on our Facebook Group - why isn’t there a national version? Why is everyone reinventing the wheel?
“There are occasions when families move from one county to another, or children are placed outside a county for their education. You don’t have to go very far, only from Kent to Medway, ten minutes up the road, to have an EHCP that no longer fits into the system.
“There is a very big call for a standardised approach.”
Alison: it’s critical there Is a standardised approach and benchmarking to ensure everyone is committed to providing the plan in the same way regardless of where your child is.
Vicky: “It’s imperative. Unless you follow a standardised approach across all services, the detail gets lost, and for children with SEND, the details matter.”
Do you feel as if Education and Health are treated equally in EHCPs?
Vicky: “EH stands for Education and Health, yet the focus tends to be more on the academic. However, there’s a strong need for health to be far more involved. Suppose we use an example of a child who needs speech therapy. In some plans, it may say that ‘Fred needs a block of speech therapy,’ where a more detailed input from health, following a standardised approach, might say ‘Fred needs speech therapy three times a week (preferably mornings).’
Alison: “There is too big an emphasis on the word ‘education’ in EHCPs. I know historically that came about because previously, a child had a statement of education needs; it was nothing to do with health and social care. Therefore, when the EHCP came along education drove that process, and health was late to the party and is still not very engaged, similarly with social care. This is a national problem though, and not just a local one.
“I’m a great one at saying because my son is reaching an age where education would withdraw the plan, it isn’t an education plan. It’s an education, health and care plan, and it should be signed over to colleagues even though they’re not receiving education anymore. There needs a better balance over who owns the plan.”
With Education, Health and Social Care services all using the same tool with the same criteria, what benefits do you expect see as a parent/carer?
Alison: “You see a reduction in the amount of paperwork you must manage as a parent. I have folders that are nothing short of the encyclopaedia Britannica. I have an education plan and a social care plan. One document would really reduce the amount of paperwork parents have to deal with.”
Knowing that Kent is actively improving the systems and processes behind their EHCPs, does this make you feel reassured?
Alison: “We feel reassured, and most importantly, involved in the process.
“Knowing there are improvements to the processes and systems and seeing the results is encouraging. Once everyone has been through the system, has found it easy to work with, and has a meaningful plan – that’s what we’re looking forward to. It’s a process, but we’re getting there.”
Vicky: “I would like the future to be one where the multi-agency approach works seamlessly, and EHCPs are implemented in unison. Even though there’s a lot to get through, I feel as if we’re at the very beginning of a promising journey.”
Find out more about our online EHCP audit tool.