a mountaqin of chips and a parent in the middle symobiolises the chips are stacked against parents in the EHCP process

Why The Chips Are Stacked Against Parents In The EHCP Process

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When starting on the EHCP journey it’s best to define the process as 2 groups. The first group could just be you, it could be you and a partner, or extended family etc. This group has shared goals and aspirations for their child and holds these objectives at an emotional level. Let’s call this group, group ‘Home’

The Other Group, for simplicity, is the Local Authority, which includes any parties funded by the group. This group may change composition throughout what we may call, the EHCP campaign. Members of this group will go on annual leave, change jobs, new hires might join, and all the other things associated with a group made up of paid employees. Group B will leverage its scale and reach to its advantage, with the caveat that all of its members operate by the same procedural rule book. This rule book is internal.

Who referees both sides?

The Local Authority group operates within the parameters of the law and its policy guidelines. Decisions are made internally, this group will share information internally, within the restrictions of the Data Protection Act.

The Homegroup may disagree with the Local Authority group, or its interpretation of it operating within the law or policy framework, and can follow several avenues of action:

The first is to raise it directly with the part of the Local Authority group that could make a change. If you have not been sent a letter you have been waiting for, chase it. If you do not agree with an extract in a report, raise it back with the author. It does start with the basics.

The next step is to raise it with the council’s own internal complaints process, which involves stages 1, and stage 2.

The complaint may qualify to be raised with the Local Government Ombudsmen, who will review that the Local Authority followed policy and best practices, they will not sit and judge a council decision. This is important to understand, as some may spend months raising an issue with the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsmen only to be told they cannot reconsider decisions, only advise where policy has not been correctly followed. They can go as far as to suggest a decision is reconsidered.

The council will appoint a Caseworker, to your specific application. The function is not independent of the Local Authority, it is the Local Authorities Case operator and could even be the person that you engage against if the case is heard at SENDIST. A Caseworker does not work as an independent and should be viewed simply as a member of the Local Authority group.

The EHCP process also has a non-obligatory mediation step, which has its own set of rules, where the aim is to agree settlement to avert a SENDIST tribunal.

SENDIST – When the Adults are in the room

The main arbitrator in parts of the Special Education Needs Process is the Special Education Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST). This is formulated by a Ministry of Justice Judge and 1 or 2 independent panel members, who will have specific knowledge in areas of SEN.

when applying for SENDIST you will be required to formally acknowledge Mediation even if it is to state you have considered mediation and choose to decline it.

Sometimes both sides are so far apart, that change will only get resolved at SENDIST. Many cases are resolved outside of SENDIST, but it’s probably my opinion you have to have a robust approach and actual commitment and readiness to go to SENDIST to get these last-minute agreements.

“We found the Local Authority provided ad-hoc answers to questions, that always seemed to leave us baffled, there are also trust issues, you tend to not trust anyone. I remember once we got independant advice that clarified the position in perhaps a more humanistic tone. It’s almost like being that new person on the job, who spots all these flaws in the first week, and you think does no one else see this.”

Parents view on do your own homework

Outside of these formal channels, there is no day-to-day referee, you do have to push a long way to get changes, and only then if you have obtained strong evidence to back it up. You may read in your research that case law has provided guidelines on the correct approach to how certain parts within the EHC Plan is written. In other words, settled fact, only to find the Local Authority you are engaged with appears to blatantly disregard such ‘settled facts’ of how the plan should be written. For example, you may expect the first draft of the EHCP, should contain specificity, only to discover the reports, and therefore the EHC Plan that is based on the reports are overtly vague.

“In our SENDIST bundle we came across 1 email from the case officer to one of the expert witnesses who had authored a report, and the question was along the lines of what duration the provision was, and frequency

The irony here! we raised this issue at first draft of the report months earlier, at the first draft of the EHCP, and to the case worker, and now months later, knocking on the door of SENDIST, the question that didn’t get answered, was after all, valid enough they needed an answer for SENDIST. You can read all you like on how something has to be, what must be done etc, and then you have what actually happens on the ground, i.e anything goes, until you get to SENDIST”

Parents view on getting answers only towards SENDIST

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