EHC Needs Assessments
COVID-19 SEN EHC Needs Assessments
The iSEND Service, FACT Bucks and SENDIAS have worked together to produce guidance for settings and families in relation to the Education, Health and Care (EHC) Needs Assessment process during the COVID-19 pandemic. The following guidance has been updated to reflect the position during the third national ‘lockdown’ that began on 5th January 2021.
The temporary changes to the legislation relating to EHC Needs Assessments and Plans made during the first national lockdown ceased on 20th September 2020. Since then, all statutory processes and associated timescales have reverted back to those outlined in the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Code of Practice: 0 to 25 years.
However, it is noted that governmental guidance around school closures and social distancing means that elements of the EHC Needs Assessment process may need to be undertaken in a manner that is different from usual. The main principle underpinning the iSEND Service’s approach to EHC Needs Assessments is the aim to gather the most accurate, reliable and comprehensive information possible given the constraints in place.
Request for an EHC Needs Assessment
If you would like to make a request for an EHC Needs Assessment, please do so by making contact via the following avenues, depending on the area in which you are located:
- SEN Aylesbury Hub: email@example.com
- SEN Wycombe Hub: firstname.lastname@example.org
- SEN Chiltern & South Bucks Hub: email@example.com
All new requests for an EHC Needs Assessment will continue to be considered by the Local Authority within the six-week statutory timescale. We ask that, if possible, any requests are submitted electronically via AnyComms or secure email, using the relevant address above.
Please ensure that any available health, social care and educational information is included with the request; a parental/youth health response (separately or via the new referral form), and medical reports such as paediatric or CAMHS documentation, will support the process.
As per the government guidelines, the vast majority of iSEND staff are currently working from home, whilst maintaining full remote access to emails and electronic files. Education, Health and Care Coordinators (EHCCos) will be available on the telephone and via email
Decision making meetings are currently being held virtually, using video conferencing tools such as Microsoft Teams. The frequency of these meetings (typically weekly) remains unchanged. During the decision making process, the education, health and social care information submitted with the request will be reviewed. Using the family’s response – including the specific health questionnaire – and other supporting evidence, the Local Authority will consider whether any further information is required for the Needs Assessment. A request may then be sent to the paediatricians, CAMHS and/or the GP, or to social care for further information. The child/young person and their carer should be contacted in the first instance for clarification if there is missing or unclear information.
Statutory Advice and Information
The information and advice requested by the Local Authority as part of the EHC Needs Assessment must be supplied within the statutory six-week timescale, unless a specific exemption applies (as detailed at paragraph 9.42 in the SEND Code of Practice). Evidence gathering, such as via assessment of the child/young person, is being undertaken in keeping with the government’s latest guidance. The following guiding principles are noted:
- Assessments and gathering advice may be done in person or remotely, depending on the individual circumstances of the case. This decision will be made with the best interests of the child/young person as a key criterion.
- Email may be appropriate for contacting setting staff and other relevant professionals, but will not be the sole means of communication with children/young people or their parent(s)/carer(s).
- All involvement and correspondence is subject to the standard rules regarding consent and data protection; remote communication will always be done via encrypted means.
- Information held on file that is older than 12 months should only be used as evidence if its current accuracy has been confirmed by relevant individuals, and all involved agree it is sufficient.
- When the EHC Needs Assessment situation requires a visit to a setting or home, the Public Health England guidance on use of PPE should be followed at all times. Appropriate risk assessment checklists regarding COVID-19 should be used prior to every visit.
Essential Sources of Information
As a minimum, the following sources should be used to inform the three areas (i.e. needs, outcomes and provision) required in the statutory advice:
- Consultation with parent(s)/carer(s)
- Consultation with the child or young person*
- Information held on the child’s file and that has come in as part of the request for EHC needs assessment
*This consultation will be undertaken in an age-appropriate manner, whilst also taking into account any communication needs, so may require assistance from the parent/carer.
Other Sources of Information
In addition, the following sources are likely to significantly improve the statutory information and advice, and thus should be used wherever possible:
- Assessment of the child or young person (e.g. via questionnaire, self-report measure or in person/online assessment tool).
- Observation of the child or young person, either directly or via video calling or recorded material shared securely.
- Consultation with setting staff (e.g. SENCO, class teacher, early years educator)
- Consultation with other relevant professionals
- Previous advice gathered as part of the request for the EHC Needs Assessment, e.g. parental health questionnaires, speech and language therapy reports.
- Evidence of meaningful and purposeful interventions put in place by the current education setting to support the child/young person’s special educational needs.
It is important to highlight that we will do our utmost to adopt creative and flexible solutions to ensure that assessments conducted during this time continue to be of a high quality, and we hope that no significant amendments will be needed as a result of assessments conducted during this time.
Issuing Decisions and EHC Plan Co-production
In accordance with the SEND Code of Practice, following the EHC Needs Assessment, should a decision be made not to issue an EHC Plan, this will be communicated to families and settings by Week 16 of the process. Should an EHC Plan be deemed necessary, the EHCCo will work with the young person and their families via telephonic/electronic means to draft the EHC Plan, utilising the information provided for the EHC Needs Assessment. The draft EHC Plan will then be issued to the parents/carers and setting electronically.
Young people and their parents/carers will be given 15 calendar days to comment on draft EHC Plans. Educational institutions will also be consulted through agreed points of contact and be given 15 calendar days to respond. Your designated EHCCo will make every effort to ensure that full information is given to settings, and is understood by the agreed point of contact. As per the SEND Code of Practice, the final EHC Plan must be issued within 20 weeks of receipt of the EHC Needs Assessment request (subject to specific exemptions).