There has been a bit of speculation about the recently published “Education, Health and Care plans examples of good practice” and mixed views on what we have published and why we have produced it in the first place. So I hope my article here will update you on Independent Support and how this guidance came about.
Since 2014 I have been leading the Independent Support (IS) programme at CDC and 3 years on I continue to respond to many enquiries from local service providers, parents and young people asking me about the programme. Many expressing support and thanks and some asking to be involved. Some rightly challenging me on what we do, and others keen to know about the future and how CDC can support sustainability when funding comes to an end. But looking back at what we have done and achieved I think we have made some really good progress with the right intentions.
To date we know that around 80,000 people have experienced support through the programme since the start of the reforms, in particular, support as parents and young people navigate through the EHC planning process. There are over 100 case studies on the CDC website which are based on the real life stories of those who have received Independent Support, or benefited from new local partnership arrangements. There are some insightful messages here so please do take a look. Over 3,000 people have taken up our training which has helped to create a national skilled workforce and we have seen local authorities build new partnerships with local partners that have helped to ensure their local offer delivers good outcomes for the local population.
But without being complacent I say there is always more to be done and that is my driving force. All this at time when local funding is being hit hard and front line services are facing a reduction in their budgets.
Those that have met me will know I’m quite up front about my feelings so will confess here that one of my biggest challenges since the start of the reforms has been identifying and agreeing with a range of stakeholders and government on what a good EHC plan should actually look like. Not an easy task and not a task that anyone could have done back in 2014 when the reforms were first introduced. We know from our providers that for some parents and young people the tasks required in the development of an EHC plan will be straight forward. However, for a lot of others the process is not straightforward and they will need help to ensure they get the best outcomes for them. To achieve this good practice is key.
This was the driving force behind our decision to develop a practical resource this nature. We wanted to offer some guidance that could help the IS workforce and IAS services improve quality and drive up standards when supporting parents and young people with the drafting of content and providing feedback on draft EHC plans. We wanted to create a resource that would be helpful for others to see and use such as carers, schools, colleges, local authority plan coordinators and Parent Carer Forums, to name just a few.
So we started by requesting examples of EHC plans from suppliers of Independent Support. We received over 150 EHC draft plans. Then we commissioned an analysis of 45 plans to identify examples of good practice. At the same time CDC developed an example of an EHC plan with the College of Occupational Therapists as part of our work with the Care Quality Commission. We also approached the SEND advisors, commissioned by the Department for Education, to simultaneously collect examples of good practice from their work with individual local areas. We brought all this information and learning together to create one single resource that we could agree upon as being good practice.
So a lot of work and effort has gone into developing this resource and we have received lots of positive feedback from those who work directly with parents and young people. However, I will confess it’s not been easy at times to pull together.
The hardest part perhaps was getting everyone involved to agree on what good practice is and reach an agreement on the final document that is not advocating any particular approach to meeting needs.
A few may say this guidance has come very late in the day but many others will recognise that you need time in order to produce something based on real examples that is really useful. I think this guidance will be really useful to many organisations and individuals who are affected by the reforms and I hope we will see more of this sort of advice and support in the year ahead - as we as a collective learn from our experiences working in the SEND field and become more familiar with the requirements of the reforms and the EHC planning process.