Don’t let over 16s fall through the EHCP information cracks

Luca
Luca, who's 18 today and in Surrey Youth Music Theatre

Today is  Son1's (Luca) 18th birthday! When I first started this blog he was just 11 and a very bright but often-difficult to parent, explosive and impulsive child with ADHD and Asperger's. Today, he is a charming, handsome young man studying Performing Arts and is a multi-instrumentalist and lead singer in a band. He also has his driving licence!

It's thanks in large part to his former school More House in Surrey, where both he and his younger brother were given the opportunity to learn in a supportive, tolerant and nurturing environment. Far from being segregated from the mainstream, they and their fellow MHS schoolboys will now be able to be included in society as adults. That's what inclusion is really about, after all.

On this note, today is also the annual International Day for Persons with Disabilities, and the theme this year happens to be Inclusion matters: access and empowerment for people of all abilities and that's what the right education and training enables young people like my sons to have a chance of achieving.

The SEND changes that came in over a year ago were aimed at making this kind of inclusion in society and working life more likely for many more young people with special needs. Previously, they had lost their statements of SEN at 16 when they left school (or 18 if they stayed into the school sixth form). The new system covers post-16s and can extend to 25 where a young person has significant needs and remains in Further Education or takes up an Apprenticeship or a Supported Internship

Both my sons have recently received their Education, Health and Care Plans, which took a very, very long time, but they come complete with a small Personal Budget each (which is to be written about another time). As they are 16 and 18, the protection an EHCP gives them is much stronger than they would have had under the old system, when they would only have had a non-binding Learning Difficulty Assessment until 18, which often wasn't worth the paper it was written on.

It's been brought to my attention however, that many 16+ young people with special needs or disabilities are not getting the chance to have this kind of statutory support. 

Over 16s young people with SEND missing out on statutory support

The Post-16 team in Surrey, our local authority, have put out a call for more parents of over-16s with SEND or the young people themselves, to apply for a transfer to an EHCP. These may include those who still have an LDA or who have gone into an apprenticeship or supported internship. Surrey are concerned that many young people will be missing out on the support and protection that an EHCP brings.

I have no reason to doubt this isn't confined to Surrey, but is reflected across the country and it appears that it is a particular problem with those leaving many mainstream schools. Surrey say that despite writing to every eligible young person in both education and training to advise them of their right to request a transfer, they have had a poor response and they're not sure why this is the case.

Statutory SEND support was new to Further Education settings in 2014, as well as to employers offering apprenticeships and, crucially, young people in custody. For its part, Surrey's Post-16 team say they've now noticed that FE's are becoming more aware of the new rules and they also have a process for those in custody.

I've searched online and have found very little information for families, education providers or employers about how to help a young person with SEN into an apprenticeship with an EHCP. Disability Rights UK has an Apprenticeships factsheet, but it's still talking about LDAs so is clearly out of date by at least a year. I called them to ask for any other information but there was none available. The SEND Code of Practice doesn't have any specific advice either. In fact, one mum has told me that her son with SEN has started an apprenticeship and no-one mentioned an EHCP to him at all.

And of course it's not just those headed for Apprenticeships, it's EVERY young person about to leave school in Y11 or those who are older and previously had  a statement or have an LDA who are eligible. The SEND Minister, Ed Timpson MP, said no young person should lose support in the transition, but it seems that quite a few have unwittingly done so through a lack of knowledge or information that seems to still be the case today.

Surrey have a nice flyer about EHCPs for Post 16s (though it doesn't mention Apprenticeships) so I'm adding it here as the information will be useful to you wherever you are.

I would recommend that local authorities and support organisation help families with more information about EHCPs and Apprenticeships as well as try to find those who are missing out on support, as Surrey is doing. Young people can't afford to lose out by slipping through the cracks.

**UPDATE 4th DECEMBER 2015**

I have received the following information from the Department for Education about Apprenticeships and EHCPs:

The SEND Code of Practice explicitly states that all children and young people with SEND should be prepared for adulthood, including employment. This preparation should start early. For those with an EHC plan, there must be an explicit focus from Year 9 onwards in the annual review on preparing the young person for adulthood, including providing them with high quality careers advice. An EHC plan ceases when a young person leaves education and moves into paid employment, except in the case of Apprenticeships.

The information in an EHC plan is therefore relevant for employers in two circumstances:

  1. when a young person is undertaking work experience or a work placement as part of their education, e.g. a supported internship; and
  2. for a young person undertaking an Apprenticeship.

1. Young people undertaking work experience or a work placement

When a young person is undertaking work experience or a work placement, as part of their education, it is not necessary for the employer to see the young person’s EHC plan. It should be for the education provider or job coach to liaise with the employer and share appropriate information from the EHC plan that will ensure the level and types of support exist for a young person to have a successful time in the workplace. A young person may, of course, choose to share their EHC plan with an employer, should they wish to.

2. Young people undertaking Apprenticeships

Young people with EHC plans can keep them during their Apprenticeships. The EHC plan should:

  • name the Apprenticeship provider (with the provider’s agreement), or provide other details such as name of the employer or Apprenticeship;
  • set out the support that will be provided to the individual while they are accessing both the training and the employment elements of the provision specified in the plan; and
  • specify what outcomes the provision is designed to achieve.

The EHC plan therefore operates in the same way as it would for a young person accessing any type of education or training. The provider should be helped and supported to work with the employer and ensure that support is available in the workplace. Access to Work applies to Apprenticeships because it is paid employment. Young people can apply for that support through Jobcentre Plus. Again, a young person may choose to share their EHC plan with an employer, should they wish to.

If the employer has any concerns about how an EHC plan operates or how to access support, they should in the first instance speak to the young person’s education or training provider. Ultimately, it is the local authority’s responsibility to ensure that the young person’s needs are identified through the EHC plan assessment process, and to ensure support exists to meet those needs.

Young people who have completed their education and have either moved into, or are seeking paid employment, can apply for support from Access to Work through Jobcentre Plus.

Tania Tirraoro
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Tania Tirraoro

Founder, CEO at Special Needs Jungle
Founder of Special Needs Jungle. Parent of two sons with Asperger Syndrome.
Journalist & author of two novels and a guide to SEN statementing. PR & social media expert. Rare Disease & chronic pain patient advocate.
Tania Tirraoro
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4 Comments

  1. Marguerite Haye

    Happy Birthday to Luca!
    You are correct this is exactly what it’s about. Feeling great to read such positive outcomes, even though I know your journey, will have been difficult. I agree, there is a gap and I’m currently supporting this cohort. There seems to be the expectation that as soon as they reach post 16 they are adults overnight. At this area in the life the support needs to be different and sadly I don’t think this is happening.
    I’d love to hear from parents or a YP in post 16 with an EHCP, please share your experience. How can the process, assessment or transfer be improved?

  2. aspieinthefamily

    Congratulations and happy birthday to your son. My son is 17 and starting to grow into a lovely young autistic man. Much of this is down to maturity, studying an area that interests him (IT) and also huge amounts of family support. I can’t credit his schools unfortunately as they failed to provide appropriate support which had a damaging impact on my son’s wellbeing. However even with that history it is possible for families to turn things round as we have done.

    However all is not perfect at college. He’s still on the pending list for an ECHP and support for him in class is at best patchy. Apparently there aren’t enough LSAs to go round and a majority of the tutors don’t have a sufficient understanding of autism. As a result we are incurring problems which we’re now trying to deal with. However the college is reluctant to liaise with us as their attitude is that now my son us over 16 he can (or should) manage things on his own. Whilst he can do some things he still needs a lot of support which remains invisible to the teaching staff. He’s also emotionally and socially much younger than his 17 years and, because of his social and communication disability, remains vulnerable to being misunderstood and exploited, even by college staff. I’m afraid to say that I don’t think that the college has my son’s best interests at heart which is why I think it so important that parents/families remain part of the post 16 education process. I mean you wouldn’t let a 12 year old manage college all on their own would you?

    1. Yes, his college had similar thoughts until he came a cropper in his ASs and had to restart on a different course. However it has a bright silver lining as we now all work closely together and he is enjoying his new course far more.
      It’s a tough one as you don’t want to seem like a fussy mum but you DO know your son best and now isn’t the time to set him adrift.
      I ended up making a complaint about our EHCP process and highlighting the difficulties and delays at a senior level. I stayed positive and offered help and solutions and kept a track of everything. You think it’s less work after secondary- it’s more!