Raising concerns on new Education, Health and Care Plans

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Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plans - the new Special Education Needs (SEN) plans that will gradually be replacing the old SEN statementing system - will enter into force in England and Wales on Monday 1st September.

Ahead of the launch of these EHC Plans, the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign met this week with two lead advisors on SEN and EHC Plans at the Department for Education to put forward our concerns and observations on the Plans' implementation in the 31 'pathfinder' areas in which the plans have been piloted.

In supporting children and young people with complex muscle-wasting conditions during the course of the pilot scheme, we have observed discrepancies in the way in which the schemes have been piloted throughout the country.

Key elements of EHC planning have differed between pathfinder areas in the referral stage, drafting of the Plan, and in the co-ordination and communication between local educational and social and health teams.

The variation in the process and degree of communication between local authorities and the child's health and support team was a particular emphasis for the meeting. We felt that, as a result of this, some children who would have been eligible risked being refused an assessment or having their needs poorly reflected in the finalised Care Plan.

At the Department for Education meeting ,we discussed:

  • the new Code of Practice for the implementation of these Plans that the Department has put forward in order to ensure greater consistency of practice
  • ways in which the Department of Education will be overseeing the process over the next few months
  • new duties that have been imposed upon health bodies to be involved in joint commissioning and EHC planning
  • how local areas will have the ability to tailor the process to best suit the needs of their constituents

Robert Meadowcroft, Chief Executive of the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign, commented:

We are pleased to have been given this opportunity to raise our concerns with the government policy team directly involved with Education, Health and Care Plans. It is vital that children with complex conditions have the right level of support that takes into account their full range of needs.

We have been invited to help shape guidance setting out best practice for the implementation of these Plans for children with muscular dystrophy and related conditions, by sharing examples of where the system has worked well and where, unfortunately, there are problems. Indeed, we are very keen to hear from parents and families as we are eager to do what we can to ensure children and young people receive the right support to access and engage in a fulfilling education.

For more information or questions on Education, Health and Care Plans please contact Shivani Handa, our Campaigns, Advocacy and Information Officer, on 020 7803 4808 or email her at s.handa@muscular-dystrophy.org

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