Getting the right start in life is vital for any child. This is even more true when they have additional needs. Often, special educational needs only emerge once a child has started school. However, if they have a congenital, genetic or developmental condition that is likely to affect their learning, it is wise to apply for an EHCP in the early years
An Education Health and Care plan (EHCP) can be held by a child or young person at any age from birth to age 25. There are only two criteria to meet to qualify for an EHCP assessment.
- First, that you suspect the child has special needs.
- Second, that you suspect that the child needs extra support in school.
You can request an assessment from your local authority (LA) yourself, usually through their website, and they must respond within six weeks. Alternatively, someone acting on behalf of the Early Years setting your child is attending can apply.
Can we get an EHCP before they start school?
Yes. EHCPs in the Early Years can be obtained from birth, where it is apparent additional support will be needed. However, LAs routinely turn people away at this point. Some of the reasons that we see given are that they will only assess children once they have an educational psychologist’s report, or a diagnosis; or when they are so many years behind other children; or after the setting has completed so many cycles of interventions. However, none of these stand up in law.
“In considering whether an EHC needs assessment is necessary, the local authority should consider whether there is evidence that despite the early years provider….having taken relevant and purposeful action to identify, assess and meet the special educational needs of the child… the child has not made expected progress.”DfE and DH (2015) SEN and disability code of practice: 0-25 years, para 9.14
Where does the evidence for EHCPs in the Early Years come from?
To inform their decision, the local authority will need to take into account a wide range of evidence, including evidence from the early years setting. The local authority will pay particular attention to:
- evidence of the child’s developmental milestones and rate of progress;
- information about the nature, extent and context of the child’s SEN;
- evidence of the action already being taken by the early years provider to meet the child’s SEN;
- evidence that, where progress has been made, it has only been as the result of much additional intervention and support over and above that which is usually provided;
- evidence of the child’s physical, emotional and social development and health needs, drawing on relevant evidence from clinicians and other health professionals and what has been done to meet these by other agencies.
It will be important that the setting has kept records and can draw on these to provide evidence to the local authority.
Some of the issues you may face with EHCPs in the Early Years that we can help you with:
- refusal to carry out an EHC needs assessment;
- refusal to issue an EHCP following a needs assessment;
- suitability of a proposed early years placement;
- appealing to the SEND Tribunal to have your preferred placement named in section I of the EHCP;
- contents of an EHCP that do not reflect your child’s needs.
- we can also help you from the very start of the process, through to a final plan.
We would be delighted to speak to you at any stage about EHCPs in the Early Years and see how our friendly, expert solicitors can help. Just get in touch!