Changes to Supporting Children With Special Educational Needs and Disability


Government reforms to supporting children with special educational needs and disability came into force in England in September 2014. We give you an update on the changes and how the new system works below.

Previously a child with additional needs in school would be assessed and issued with a Statement of Special Educational Needs (SEN Statement), which outlined how they would be supported in school. 

Many adoptive parents report that they struggle to get their child the help they need due to a lack of effective communication between schools, health and social care professionals.

How does the new system work?

Education, Health and Care Plans (EHC Plans) replace the SEN Statement and widen the focus beyond education. They bring together a lead professional from education, health and social care to jointly plan and commission services for children with special educational needs and disability. There is now one single assessment process across these areas and the resulting plan will clearly outline who is responsible for each element of support to be delivered.

What happens if my child already has an SEN Statement?

Children currently with an SEN Statement will be phased over to Education, Health and Care Plans and will not lose their entitlement to support.

What support will be available?

Since September 2014 all local authorities must a publish in one place a ‘Local Offer’ – detailing what services and support is expected to be available across the authority for children and young people with special educational needs and disability. This will enable children, young people and parents to see what support they may be able to access. 

What age range do Education, Health and Care Plans cover?

An EHC Plan can cover a child or young person from 0-25.

Educational goals will be set in each child or young person's EHC Plan. If a young person has not yet achieved these educational goals by age 18, and they remain in education or training, they can retain their EHC Plan up to age 25. This change aims to ease the transition between child and adult services and ensure young people with special educational needs and disability are effectively supported to achieve their learning goals.

Can we have a personal budget for support?

Yes. All families whose child has an EHC Plan, or the young person themselves if over 16, has a right to request a personal budget. The personal budget will allow young people or parents to buy support identified in the plan directly, rather than relying on the local authority.

Parents or young people are given a choice as to whether they receive direct payments, where they purchase and manage provision themselves, or if an agency manages the funds on their behalf.

How to find out more information 

Education Health and Care Plans will transform the way support is delivered to children and young people with special educational needs and disability. Share your experiences with us on Twitter and Facebook and our online forums.

For further information see the Department for Education guide on SEND for Parents and Carers.