It feels like the ink has barely dried on one response to a government consultation, than we are preparing to submit another! At nasen House today, coffee-time conversation turned to the consultation into Education Health and Care Plan (EHC plan) proposed timescales, which is inviting responses until next Friday (12 August).
Along with others in the team, I admit to feeling an initial disappointment that this consultation is all about process rather than quality, but it’s worth a reminder that the SEND and Alternative Provision green paper, which closed last week, also provided an opportunity to also reflect on EHC plans.
A further, more sobering thought was that this consultation was triggered by a breach of the SEND Regulations 2014. While few may have predicted that this particular breach of the law would lead to a formal consultation, it explains why the consultation is taking a narrow lens on process rather than looking at outcomes.
The first proposal explored by the consultation is whether it would be a good idea to extend the period for issuing draft amendments following an EHC plan review, allowing up to eight weeks.
We say NO! Eight weeks to produce proposed draft amendments is not conducive to supporting the universal human right to education (Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989, Article 28). At the very least, we believe that a revised draft should be available within the half term period.
The second proposal addresses the introduction of a two-stage process for amendments to EHC plans. Here, the first stage would be to confirm that amendments would be proposed, and to set out timelines for doing so; the second stage to issue notice of proposals and any evidence to support amendments.
We say MAYBE. We would support this proposal with a view to it enabling a child, young person or their family to fully understand the proposals, but definitely not where it creates unnecessary delay.
Proposal 3 considers whether information should be circulated three weeks ahead of a review meeting rather than the current two-week requirement.
We say YES! This sounds like a good idea, and enables a child, young person or their family to arrange for the support they may need to prepare for a review. We know that for some people this provides a chance to have conversations that build up to the review. Details are important to get right, especially as so often this is an annual opportunity.
Proposal 4 asks if the implementation of the proposals would have a positive impact for those with certain protected characteristics.
We say POTENTIALLY YES, in relation to Proposal 2 and 3 – adopting a two-stage process, where it enables better understanding, and introducing additional preparation time for review meetings.
However, we say a resounding NO in relation to anything that would lead to unnecessary delays in providing an updated plan, arranging correct support and bringing about a positive impact for the child or young person at the centre of an EHC plan.
What are your thoughts around the proposed changes? Be sure to have your say by responding directly to the consultation at: Reviews of Education, Health and Care plans: proposed timescales - Department for Education - Citizen Space