The EHCP timeframe and how it impacts the quality of SEND provision
Phil Stock
Founder & CEO

The EHCP timeframe and how it impacts the quality of SEND provision

With huge disparity across the country, how is a high-quality EHCP created within a tight 20-week timeframe?

The EHCP timeframe and how it impacts the quality of SEND provision

The EHCP timeframe: is it impacting the quality of SEND provision?

Not all EHCPs are created equal. Ofsted and CQC SEND inspections highlight EHCP quality and consistency as the third most referenced significant weaknesses when inspection results are analysed across all England local areas. With huge disparity across the country, how is a high-quality EHCP created within a tight 20-week timeframe?

So, how to make EHCP paperwork less time-consuming whilst striving for quality and personalisation? We discuss how the current EHCP timescale of 20 weeks impacts the quality of SEND provision.

What makes a good quality EHCP?

The EHCP application is a complex process. From start to finish, there are multiple professionals involved. But what makes a good quality EHCP? Firstly, it relies on consistently understanding what evidence is needed from all parties: the school, the SEND team, the parents and the healthcare professionals involved. Here are a few aspects that contribute to a high-quality EHCP.

  • Parents and children are heavily involved from the get-go. Their contributions are actively sought and their views are valued and integral to the process.
  • The voice of the child is evident throughout the plan.
  • There is a golden thread between the C/YP’s individual needs, aspirations, outcomes and provision.
  • The EHCP paperwork should be outcome driven and child-focused.
  • The suggested outcomes and SEND provision should be tailored to the child’s needs.
  • A joined up approach across education, health and social care, where all partner services work cohesively and understand ‘what a good EHCP looks like’. They understand their requirements and work to the relevant timeframes.
  • A personalised EHCP application, where evidence provided has been carefully collected, making it valuable and relevant.
  • Measurable outcomes that are scored against a robust quality assurance system.
  • The SEN provision should be suggested due to the displayed need of the child rather than the current services available in the local authority.
  • The individuals writing the EHCP feel they have enough information from relevant professionals to produce a child centred and purposeful EHCP.

The quality of the EHCPs across England is not yet consistent. A large number of Local Areas inspected received a WSoA (Written Statement of Action), and all of these reference limitations with regards to the quality and consistency of EHCPs.

What are the legal requirements for a UK EHCP?

An EHCP is a legal document used to help children and young people receive the required SEND provision. Schools and local authorities are governed by requirements when following the EHCP process. Following the SEND green paper 2023, this is due to be amended. We share some of the most important.

  • An EHCP is for children and young people between 0-25 years old who are in education or training.
  • It is a process that follows the Children and Families Act 2014 and the SEND Code of Practice 2014.
  • The EHCP process should be completed in at most 20 weeks (although there are considerations for school holidays and breaks).
  • The EHCP, once approved and created, must be regularly reviewed, and monitored.
  • The local authority is responsible for ensuring schools and other healthcare professionals implement the SEN provision requirements.
An hour glass half way through

Why is there such disparity across the UK with EHCPs?

The EHCP big picture across England highlights challenges and inconsistencies. Each LA is facing unparalleled time pressures and caseloads for EHCP applications. Without objective guidelines on what a high-quality EHCP looks like. There is no true structure for collecting good-quality evidence, SEND outcomes and necessary provisions, meaning some LAs continue to utilise historical processes that are time consuming and not necessarily the most effective.

Over half of the LAs nationally have been identified as needing to make big changes to their current EHCP process and SEND arrangements.

So, why is it that some LAs were required to produce a Written Statement of Action (WSoA) and others mere miles away were not?

Differences in local area SEND team experiences.

The SEND team in LA 1 may have different processes than LA 2. One SEND team may have experienced practitioners, which influences the EHCP evaluation process, and another may have a high staff turnover. These human factors can impact how EHCP information is collected, processed and used for an EHCP application.

Differences in how partner services join up and collaborate

Some local areas have developed excellent working relationships between partner services across education, health and social care. They have clear systems for cohesive working  and have a joint understanding of what makes an effective EHCP.

However, in many local areas there is a fragmented approach, with services working in isolation. Professionals in health and social care feel disconnected from their colleagues in the SEND and Inclusion services and as a result both the timeliness and quality of information being shared is limited.

A number of LAs who have been cited as having good quality EHCP processes, have in place a Designated Clinical Officer (DMO) in health and a Designated Social Care Officer  (DISCO) in social care. These individuals help coordinate and quality assure the EHCP processes in their respective areas.

Timeframe challenges for each local area.

Nationally, across all LAs, only 50.7% of EHCPs were issued within the 20-week timeframe in 2022. The increase of EHCP applications will bring additional time difficulties. However, issuing within this suggested timeframe has been a historical challenge. Could the pressure of completing an EHCP application be affecting the quality? Let’s explore this further.

Is the EHCP timeframe impacting the quality of SEND provision?

Less than 51% of EHCPs being completed in the 20-week timeframe raises concerns for the SEND systems. Parents and schools become frustrated with LAs for seemingly ‘delayed’ applications. But with caseloads at an all-time high, where is the solution?

The current 20-week EHCP timeframe may seem lengthy to parents, but not for the local SEND teams liaising with several education and healthcare professionals. With the quality of the EHCPs being produced a national issue, is the 20-week timeframe a contributing factor? With growing caseloads and pressures to complete, does quality can move down the priority lists for local areas.

So, with the time ticking for EHCPs to be issued, does this impact the quality of the EHCP paperwork collected for the document? In short, yes. Detailed, personalised assessments are more valuable than generic SEND outcomes due to time constraints.

The solution is to set out high expectations from the beginning. An EHCP Auditing Tool that provides high expectations (and examples) of good practice for all professionals involved in the EHCP application process. Invision360 provides help and guidance for each EHCP section; consistency is moderated and can be benchmarked across other LA.

By removing the subjective experience level of LA SEND teams, historically ineffective systems can be greatly improved, and steps taken towards addressing the weaknesses in the current SEND arrangements systems nationwide.

Invision 360: who are we?

Invision360 are the creator of the UK’s leading online EHCP quality assurance tool. Used successfully by 40 local authorities and areas to increase quality and consistency in EHCP paperwork and the auditing process. Listed as a supplier on the UK government G-Cloud Framework, our award-winning digital tool replaces cumbersome spreadsheets to manage the EHCP quality assurance across your local authority.

Get in touch for a free demo of the following Invision360 digital solutions: EHCP Audit Tool, Annual Review Tool, Health Advice, Education Psychology Advice or PEP Audit Tool.

Other articles you may be interested in:

A focused summary of the SEND Green Paper 2023.

Health advice for EHC Plans: 4 challenges for Local Areas.  

7 key benefits of benchmarking for Local Authorities.