manage stress and anxiety in the EHCP cost spiral

Managing Costs and Stress in the EHCP Process: Strategies for Families

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Raising a child with special educational needs comes with its own set of joys and challenges. While the rewards are immense, the journey can also be accompanied by financial stress, especially when it comes to securing the necessary support through an Education, Health, and Care Plan (EHCP).

In this blog post, we will explore the cost that may add to your ready-loaded stress levels, and a few ideas to try and keep things on track from a stress and anxiety control perspective.

Important Disclaimer: Please note, that the following information is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as financial advice or an assessment of true costs for your specific situation. The expertise on these pages is around working to reduce stress and anxiety.

What is the total financial cost to secure an EHCP for my child?

The EHC Needs Assessment, the issuance of the EHCP, and the implementation of the EHCP, including the cost of provisions outlined in the EHCP are fully funded by the Local Authority. The costs to fund the EHCP will be specified in the plan, and this amount will be provided to the education setting. There is also an option for funding to be given directly to the parent or guardian in the form of direct payments.

On paper there is no financial cost to families, [if] the application to carry out an EHC Needs Assessment is agreed, Local Authority provides all the evidence, either through Local Authority funded NHS or NHS services, agreement to provide an EHC Plan is given, the published contents of the EHC Plan have no contested amendments, and the education setting delivers the provisions specified.

The Costs to Consider Securing an EHCP When There Is Disagreement?

Disagreements with the Local Authority or school during the EHCP process can lead to various costs. These include not only the time, effort, and stress invested in managing the disagreement through to resolution but also other potential financial costs. The financial costs largely depend on whether you seek advocacy or legal representation and at what level. There will be costs to secure independent evidence such as OT, SALT, and Educational Psychologists. There will also be additional costs if the case is heard at the Special Education Needs Disability Tribunal (SENDIST). Let’s take a look at how these costs may break down and from where:

Speech and Language Therapist (SALT)

A Speech and Language Therapist (SALT) can play a critical role in advocating for the speech, language, and communication needs of the child or young person. A SALT’s role in this process is to carry out a detailed assessment of the child’s speech, language, and communication needs and to compile a corresponding report.

In the context of the EHCP process, there will be costs to secure the SALT to carry out an assessment, there may be additional costs if the SALT needs to travel to your home to carry out that assessment, and there will be additional costs if the SALT is required to represent the report at a SENDIST tribunal. There could also be additional costs if you book your SALT to attend the tribunal only to be told the date is vacated at the last minute or the hearing is split into 2. When it comes to SENDIST, there is no caveat for your costs, though in limited (and rare) circumstances costs can be awarded (seek legal advice on this scenario).

Occupational Therapist (OT)

Occupational Therapists (OTs) can play a pivotal role in the Education, Health, and Care Plan (EHCP) process. Their involvement is crucial in ensuring that the EHCP accurately reflects the child’s needs and provides comprehensive support to enable them to access, participate in, and benefit from education and school life. Here’s how OTs contribute to the EHCP process as they carry out an assessment and identification of needs:

Sensory Processing OTs can assess a child’s sensory processing abilities and how these impact their learning and behaviour in educational settings. They identify if the child is over-sensitive (hyper-responsive) or under-sensitive (hypo-responsive) to sensory inputs.

Fine and Gross Motor Skills They evaluate fine motor skills (e.g., writing, using scissors) and gross motor skills (e.g., walking, jumping) to understand the child’s physical capabilities and challenges.

Self-Care and Independence OTs assess skills related to self-care (dressing, eating) and independence in daily routines, crucial for participation in school activities.

The cost structure for OT follows that of SALT. There are additional costs to cover the mileage and time of the therapist visiting the child at school to carry out the assessment, as well as SENDIST attendance costs.

Educational Psychologist (Ed Psych)

Educational Psychologists (Ed Psychs) can play a pivotal role in the Education, Health, and Care Plan (EHCP) process, contributing their expertise to understand the educational, social, emotional, and behavioural needs of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). Their involvement is crucial at various stages of the EHCP, from assessment through to planning, intervention, and review. Here’s how Educational Psychologists guide and contribute to different areas of the EHCP:

  • Cognitive Assessments of a child’s cognitive abilities, including IQ tests and specific assessments to identify learning difficulties, strengths, and areas of need.
  • Emotional and Social Development to evaluate the child’s emotional well-being and social interactions, understanding how these factors impact their learning and school life.
  • Behavioural Assessments for Children Exhibiting Challenging Behaviours, Ed Psychs assess the underlying causes and how these behaviours affect their learning and inclusion in school
  • Learning Strategies Based on assessment findings, Ed Psychs recommend specific teaching strategies and interventions tailored to the child’s learning profile, such as differentiated instruction, visual aids, or structured learning environments.
  • Social and Emotional Support where they suggest interventions and programs to support the child’s emotional well-being and social skills development, which might include social skills groups, counselling, or behaviour management programs.
  • Behavioural Interventions, for behavioural challenges, Ed Psychs design behaviour support plans or recommend positive behaviour support strategies to be implemented in school and at home.

The costs associated with Ed Psych follow the same structure as SALT and OT

The Cost of Special Education Needs Disability Tribunal (SENDIST)

We are writing a whole blog post on this topic – check back soon

Overcoming the Financial and Emotional Challenges of the EHCP Process

The journey through securing an EHCP can be financially unpredictable. This unpredictability can significantly contribute to stress levels, affecting the well-being of the entire family. Recognising this, it’s crucial to address both the financial challenges and the resulting emotional strain directly.

This BBC News story, published on 24 March 2021 by Thamayanthi McAllister, delves into the financial and emotional strain faced by families of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in securing suitable educational placements and support through the Education, Health and Social Care Plan (EHCP) process.

In a revealing exploration by BBC News, the formidable challenges faced by families navigating the Education, Health, and Social Care Plan (EHCP) process for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) were brought to light. The story of Anna Geldard, who incurred costs of up to £20,000 to secure a specialized educational setting for her autistic child, encapsulates the profound financial and emotional strain many families endure. This financial burden is not isolated but is a common narrative among SEND families striving to provide their children with the necessary support.

The EHCP journey, marked by its adversarial nature, places families in a daunting position. Despite the entitlement to this support, the detailed and often intimidating legal process required to secure an EHCP and suitable school placements leaves many feeling overwhelmed. The necessity of obtaining professional assessments from specialists, such as Speech and Language Therapists, Occupational Therapists, and Educational Psychologists, adds another layer of financial strain, especially when these assessments must be defended in tribunal settings.

Resistance from local authorities, often due to budgetary constraints, exacerbates these challenges, pushing families towards costly tribunal appeals. This resistance is a stark contrast to the tribunal outcomes, where a significant majority of decisions favour the families, highlighting a disconnect between initial local authority assessments and tribunal judgments. This scenario not only underscores the financial implications but also the emotional toll on families, who find themselves in a relentless fight for their children’s rights to adequate education and support.

The government acknowledges the inconsistencies in SEND support across the country and aims to address these through increased funding and a comprehensive SEND Review. However, the path to obtaining an EHCP remains fraught with obstacles, underscoring the urgent need for systemic reforms to ensure that support is accessible, equitable, and effectively meets the needs of SEND children and their families.

This narrative, as reported by BBC News, underscores the critical issues within the EHCP process, serving as a stark reminder of the resilience required by families and the pressing need for systemic improvements to support children with SEND.

Managing Stress from EHCP-Related Costs: Practical Solutions

Financial Education and Planning: Begin with a solid foundation in financial literacy. Understanding your financial situation clearly can significantly reduce stress. Develop a comprehensive financial plan that includes an emergency fund, which can be particularly reassuring during periods of uncertainty with EHCP funding.

  1. Explore All Funding Options: Dive deep into available grants, benefits, and other financial aids specifically designed for families with children under EHCPs. Local charities, non-profits, and government programs can offer support that you may not have initially considered.
  2. Advocacy and Negotiation: Becoming an informed advocate for your child not only empowers you but can also lead to better financial outcomes. Learn the nuances of negotiation with local authorities to secure the funding and resources your child needs. Sometimes, a well-negotiated plan can result in more comprehensive support than initially offered.
  3. Professional Financial Advice: While the blog does not offer financial advice, consulting with a financial advisor familiar with special needs planning can offer personalized strategies to manage the costs associated with an EHCP. They can guide you on saving, investing, and even navigating government and charitable support efficiently.

Easing the Emotional Toll

  • Support Networks: Engage with communities and support groups of parents and guardians in similar situations. Sharing experiences and solutions can offer not just emotional relief but practical financial tips and resources.
  • Prioritize Self-Care and Family Well-being: Stress can be mitigated by ensuring that you and your family take time for rest and activities that rejuvenate your spirits. Whether it’s simple family outings, hobbies, or mindfulness practices, maintaining a balance is key to managing stress effectively.
  • Seek Professional Mental Health Support: If financial stress becomes overwhelming, consulting with mental health professionals can provide coping mechanisms and strategies to manage anxiety and stress. This support can be crucial in maintaining your emotional resilience throughout the EHCP process.
  • Document and Organize: Keeping a detailed record of all financial transactions, communications, and resources related to your child’s EHCP can alleviate stress by making you feel more in control. Organized documentation can also streamline the process of applying for financial aid, and grants, or in negotiations with the Local Authority.

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