Navigating the EHC process
With Alix due to move up to secondary school, his parents were concerned about making sure he received enough support. They wanted an Education Health Care plan to help Alix achieve all of his aspirations as he grew up, but didn’t quite know where to start. Here, their Independent Supporter tells Alix’s story.
I met ten-year-old Alix and his parents, Katie and Adam, in the spring of this 2015, while Alix was in Year Five at a Specialist School.
Alix is a very engaging boy who really loves talking to adults, and was eager to tell me about all of his hobbies and interests – particularly his love of golf. In particular, he shared with me his aspiration to be a golf coach when he is older. He told me how much he really enjoyed arts and crafts, and playing golf games on the Wii.
Alix also shared with me his worries about moving into his last year at primary school, and how he was nervous about going up to high school.
His parents were very happy with how Alix had settled into Year Five, but were keen for him to have an Education Health Care (EHC) plan, as his Special Education Needs (SEN) statement was very dated, and they felt it didn’t capture his current needs. They were also keen to work in a way that encouraged Alix’s aspirations for the future.
Katie and Adam felt that some of Alix’s health needs, and the lack of support in this area, were impacting on his potential – and that they needed specific targets for him to work toward. We found it very beneficial to look at Alix’s aspirations, and work backwards from this point to think about what support he would need to achieve them. This meant thinking about how a range of health professionals might help Alix and his family to access specific support and equipment.
This helped everyone stay focused on their long-term goals for Alix, encouraging them to stay positive and draw on everything they feel Alix is great at, rather than how they had worked previously – which was focusing too much on what Alix couldn’t do.
When Alix’s draft plan came back, Katie was upset that it didn’t fully capture the strategies that needed to be in place in order to support Alix’s aspirations. Katie said she couldn’t phone the local SEN team herself as she was too upset, and felt she needed some independent support to discuss her concerns.
I suggested to Katie that I could request a meeting with the SEN team for her to discuss her concerns and that, if she would like, I could attend this meeting for moral support. I phoned the SEN team and highlighted Katie’s concerns, suggesting that it would be useful if a meeting could be arranged to discuss a way forward.
I met with Katie beforehand and drafted some of her concerns. When she met the local SEN officer, she felt the meeting was productive, but also commented how useful it was that I had been there to keep her on track, remind her of key points, and support her to ensure her voice was heard.
Alix’s draft plan was amended, and she subsequently phoned me to say how relieved she was – and that her and Adam were both pleased with the final draft, as they felt it fully captured Alix, his needs and his aspirations.
When I look back at working with Alix and his family, a few thoughts come to mind. Firstly, Independent Support was important to the family, as they wanted to be able to comfortably say what wasn’t working for Alix, and needed some help to be able to do that.
Secondly, I found it challenging because Alix wasn’t really bothered about talking about things, and was happy for his mum and dad to do all the talking. However, where possible, I always like to capture a young person’s voice, and it therefore made me think about how I might do things differently.
Thirdly, for me this case also highlighted how supporting parents to find their voice and address their concerns can make a big difference to parents’ confidence, and their ability or willingness to work in partnership with professionals. Katie felt that because she had her local Independent Supporter to raise her concerns to, she could remain focused and in control at the meeting.
This feeling of control allowed her to remain friendly and positive, and ultimately meant that a solution was found and that Alix’s plan was approved – rather than the parents’ voices not being heard, and the case having to go to a tribunal.