Things to consider when requesting an assessment for EHCP
Many Children in Care experience attachment and trauma related difficulties, especially hypervigilance and emotional dysregulation. These difficulties can bear some similarities to autism, although there are notable differences and can be particularly problematic for a young person in their education setting. It is also important for children in care to recognise that attachment difficulties or the impact of trauma can lead to an assessment of social emotional and mental health needs, but that children and young people can recover from trauma and overcome attachment difficulties through interventions that are relationship based. This is often the main consideration by parents, carers and Social Care professionals when advocating for an EHCP. These difficulties can often co-occur with other learning difficulties, such as those associated with cognition and learning, as well as speech, which may also be taken into consideration when deciding to apply for an EHCP for a Child in Care.
However, it is important that parents, carers and social care staff have realistic expectations around the likelihood of the authority deciding to proceed to issue an EHCP, and also what impact an EHCP would have on a young person’s education. The local authority will proceed to make an assessment (through formal assessment, diagnostic test or professional observations) of a young person’s needs. An EHCP will only be agreed in those cases where there is sufficient evidence to suggest that the young person is consistently making unsatisfactory progress, despite the consultation with specialist professionals and the implementation of their advice, or that the level of support required to make satisfactory progress is unsustainable. Where the decision is made that the Local Authority is not going to proceed with an assessment and EHCP, schools and settings are still required to make provision for the additional needs associated with any attachment difficulties or any other special need of a Child in Care, and this would continue to be co-ordinated by the school’s SENCO/Inclusion Leader and supported by the Birmingham Virtual School and any other specialist agencies involved with the child.
It is important that parents, carers and Social Care staff appreciate that an EHCP will not necessarily make any difference to the amount of money available to be spent on making provision for the young person. In the case of a Child in Care, as for any child, an assessment will be made (in Birmingham, this is currently made via ‘CRISP – Criteria for Special Provision’) collectively between specialist professionals involved in the young person’s education. This assessment determines how much, if any, additional money is required to cover the cost of the extra provision necessitated by the young person’s special needs. In many cases, it is determined that the school’s ‘Notional SEN Budget’ (up to £6000 per young person and already within the school’s budget) will be sufficient to provide this additional provision. In this case, even if the authority does proceed with issuing an EHCP, there would be no difference in the amount of funding for the young person compared to the time before the EHCP was issued. Anecdotal evidence suggests that it is a common misconception amongst professionals working with Children in Care, as well as more widely, that having an EHCP entitles a young person to 1:1 provision. This is not the case, and this sort of provision would only be provided if the EHCP states that this level of support is needed to enable the young person to make progress.
However, although there may not necessarily be any monetary changes, there are important changes that an EHCP does bring. An EHCP is a legal document which recognises the additional needs a young person has and formally states what provision needs to be made in order to meet those needs. It makes these recommendations based on the advice of a variety of specialist professionals involved in the young person’s life, which may include, Social Care, the Virtual School, Educational Psychology, Pupil and School Support (or similar), Communication and Autism Team (or similar), Sensory Support Team, Occupational Health and others) which the school or educational setting must adhere to. An important part of this is a recommendation of which school or setting would be able to meet these needs, taking into account everyone’s opinions. This recommendation would not necessarily be for a special school, and it is very often the case that the Local Authority determines that a young person’s needs can be appropriately met within a mainstream school, possibly the one they are already attending. This can often come as a surprise for many of those involved in the child’s life.
Ensuring that the expectations of parents, carers and Social Care professionals involved in the life of a Child in Care are realistic helps to ensure that an application is only made in circumstances where it is necessitated and avoids misconceptions and the resulting possible disappointment that can occur later.