As of 1st September 2014, special educational needs, took on a different meaning with the introduction of Education Health and Care Plans, which came in to force under the Children and Families Act 2014.
Essentially, Education Health and Care plans redesign the old statements of special educational needs which previously set out a child’s special educational needs and what schools had to provide them with to meet such needs.
The statement system was thought to be somewhat outdated and cumbersome. Many children had health and social care needs which needed to be addressed in other forms of care package, alongside their statement at school. The statement system was often criticised for not taking in to account the views of those who know the child best of all, their parents or guardians and those who work with them on an everyday basis.
Education Health and Care (EHC) plans seek to change the system in the biggest reform to the special educational needs system for some 30 years. EHC plans are designed to bring together a detailed account of a child’s educational, health and social care needs and detail what provision is required to meet all those needs under one key document.
Not only is there a focus on cooperation between health bodies, social care bodies and education authorities but the Code of Practice makes clear the importance of the child’s own views as well as parents/guardians and professionals who work closely with the child.
Focus is also on those aged 0-25 whereas the previous statement system only covered early years through to further/higher education. There is a real emphasis on giving young people and their families’ control of what is provided for them and how they receive it including the option for people to obtain personal budgets so that they can control the funding of services directly.
Whilst teething problems are inevitable with such significant changes it remains to be seen whether local service providers will now take this excellent opportunity to produce holistic, person centred plans which work and adapt to a young person’s changing needs as they grow, ensuring that they receive services which help them fulfil their potential rather than services which are of little benefit to them.
Liz Perry is a Disability Rights Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers UK.
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