Many children and young people with special educational needs (“SEN”) and disabilities will also require support from the health service and social care. If the child or young person has an education, health and care (“EHC”) plan, this may cover their health needs relating to their SEN and social care needs relating to their SEN or to a disability.

How to get support

If you require support from the health service (including Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)), the starting point is likely to be a referral from your GP or (in some cases) from the child or young person’s school.

Social services can provide a wide range of support such as practical assistance in the home, respite care and short breaks, home adaptations, travel and other assistance. If you require support from social care, you can ask the local authority (“LA”) to assess the child or young person’s social care needs.

You can find information about how to do this for a child or young person under 18 on Contact’s website, including a model letter you can use.

If the young person is coming up to the age of 18, you may wish to ask for a child’s needs assessment to establish what support they may need from adult social services after they turn 18. There is further information about this on Contact’s website. There is also a model letter prepared by the solicitors Irwin Mitchell, which you can use to request an assessment for a child or young person who’s approaching the age of 18.

If a young person over the age of 18 requires social care support, this will be provided by adult social services. Carers UK has information on how to ask for a needs assessment for a person over 18.

Even if the child or young person does not require support for social care, their carer may need support in order to cope with meeting the child or young person’s care needs. Carers UK have information on applying for a carer’s assessment if you are caring for someone under 18 or for a young person aged 18 or over.

Can health and social care provision be written in to an EHC plan?

Only children and young people with special educational needs can qualify for an EHC needs assessment. If a child has, for example, significant medical needs but no learning difficulties, they should instead have a health plan which would set out how they should be supported but they would not need any special educational provision.

However, once the LA has agreed to carry out an EHC needs assessment, the assessment will be of the child or young person’s education, health and social care needs.

It is important to note that health care provision or social care provision which educates or trains a child or young person is treated as special educational provision (section 21(5) of the Children and Families Act 2014). A good example of this is speech therapy. It looks like it should be health provision – because it is usually provided by the Health Service – but it must be treated as special educational provision. This is because speech and language therapy “educates or trains” a child or young person to communicate more effectively.

This means that a child or young person with communication difficulties is likely to be seen as having special educational needs. It also means that where a therapy that educates or trains is written in to an EHC plan, it should be in Section F, as it is special educational provision.

Any health care provision will have to be agreed by the local Clinical Commissioning Group (“CCG”) before it can be written into an EHC plan.

Once provision is written in to an EHC plan, it is legally enforceable. If it is in the education or social care provision sections of the EHC plan, then the LA must ensure it is provided. If it is in the health care provision section, then the CCG must provide it.

What if the health and social care provision in the EHC plan is inaccurate or inadequate?

During an EHC needs assessment, the LA should seek advice and information from health and social care. If this is not done, this could lead to inaccurate or inadequate sections of the EHC plan, which are blank, or say “not known to the service” or “no health/social care needs” when this is not the case.

The Department for Education has been very clear that this is not sufficient to demonstrate that the LA has fulfilled its duties to seek information and advice, nor to comply with its duty to ‘specify’ health or social care provision in an EHC plan.

If you are currently undergoing an EHC needs assessment, the LA should seek advice from health and social care – see the section on what should happen in an EHC needs assessment for more information. If the EHC plan has already been finalised, you may be able to challenge it by appealing to the SEND Tribunal.

If the LA fail to comply with their obligations you can make a complaint.