Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plans
Making the child’s voice heard
The Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan was launched in 2014, to replace Statements of Special Educational Needs (SEN) and Learning Difficulties Assessments for children and young people up to the age of 25 with special educational needs.
The plan’s intention was to allow professionals from health, education and social care services to work more collaboratively in supporting young people with special educational needs or disabilities, and in doing so to ensure they received more holistic care across a range of vital services.
As well as addressing the educational needs of the young person, the document also details an assessment of health and social care needs. The local authority then agrees the plan, and assumes the responsibility for securing these services.
The plan highlights the need for children and young people to be given a far greater say in the type of support they receive, as an aid to providing them with a degree of ownership over outcomes.
Substantive consultation with the child or young person, and their parents or guardians, is a valuable step towards ensuring the services that both care and education professionals provide, are those most beneficial to their welfare and development, and are seen as such by service recipients.
Effective consultation, of course, is dependent upon the child or young person and their support group being heard, and feeling supported, in articulating their needs and desires.
This is not always straightforward. For many children and parents, unaware of the full range of options available to them, unused to contact with large organisations and authority figures, and unconfident or unable to fully express their needs and concerns, this can be a daunting process.
Special Educational Needs Coordinators (Sencos) are increasingly employing the services of an independent advocate or mediator as an effective method of ensuring the child or young person’s voice -and that of their parents’ or guardians’ – is fully heard; in addition, their thoughts and feelings need to be fully articulated, and given a fair weighting in any consultation.
An independent advocate ensures that vulnerable people, in particular, have their views respected and wishes considered, are treated fairly and that their rights are defended. They will take the time to get to know the views of a young person and their wishes, represent them in situations where they are uncomfortable or unable to speak, and work with them to make informed decisions that provide genuine independence.
This can only be beneficial in ensuring best outcomes for all concerned, and a genuine sense of empowerment and ownership of outcomes for vulnerable young people.