I often find myself pondering, what’s the point to Education and Health Care Plans if they are largely ignored by schools and the overseeing authority?
Education and Health Care Plans (EHCP’s) are legally binding documents which stipulate the specific additional needs of a child or young person and what provision the Local Authority will make to ensure that these specific needs are met.
EHCP assessments are supposed to be comprehensive and led by the individual needs of a child. However, in these cash-starved times, it is becoming increasingly common for Local Authorities to issue plans that meet the needs of their local resources, rather than those of the child.
For many children this will be okay – their needs will be provided for in more generalised or mainstream settings. But there are specific groups of children whose needs are not being provided for. Being autistic with co-existing anxiety seems to fit into this category – requiring specialist autism and mental health support, quiet settings with access to academic curriculum. In our Local Authority there are little to no providers for such “complex” presentations. (I find that our L.A uses the descriptor “complex” frequently in relation to my children – I find this obnoxiously horrid. Their requirements are clear, the lack of provision is what renders their circumstances “complex”.)
For the best part of four years I have had no choice but to issue legal challenges to ensure that my children’s EHCP’s accurately reflect their need. Legal challenge is stressful, exhausting, expensive and places the parent in the role of state enemy number 1 – “difficult parent” – potentially the reason the child is “complex” …
With resilience and persistence I have managed to secure plans that are tailored for my children. I know every detail contained within their plans and it irks me greatly when a) settings appear to have not read the document and b) the overseeing authority does not oversee the plans implementation.
Most recently it has felt to me that the default position of both provider and authority is one of: most of the plan isn’t necessary, we agreed with parent rather than continue to costly tribunal proceedings and we have no intention of ensuring the provision is delivered.
For my children, many legal provisions have never materialised – regular speech and language sessions and regular occupational therapy, for example. Without these assistive therapies, anxiety relating to social interactions has increased, which in turn has attracted the attention of professionals – “why is he anxious” (are there problems at home?), “why does he not have comparable friendships to his peers?” (what is going on at home?). I advocate that it is the provision that is missing and that is why professionals have not seen “progress”.
I have been in meetings, in capacity of mother, and quoted the specific provision contained within these legally binding documents and relating to the communication aids necessary to enable my child’s voice to be heard … Only to be criticised for requesting that this is provided.
I have been present during transitions into settings when my child is distressed because their key worker is oblivious to the specific strategies (detailed within his EHCP) needed to ensure a smooth transition. And yes, as mother I have been blamed for the distress caused too – for unduly influencing my child because of my own “anxiety”.
EHCP’s are supposed to deliver equity. Ensuring that our children receive an education (and childhood) that is comparable in quality to peers without additional support needs.
There is no equality. There is no provision. There is no money. There is no political will to provide the necessary money. And so the individual is blamed instead. Usually, the mother.
Which brings me to my opening thought – is there really any point to an EHCP?