How to choose an expert to assess?
Understanding your child’s needs is vital if there is to be a meaningful discussion on what provision they should have to meet those needs.
During an EHC needs assessment, the LA should gather information from professionals as part of that process to ensure needs are identified.
Many parents commission private assessments of their children to deepen that understanding, particularly when it comes to appealing a decision from the LA, where it is important to have evidence from professionals to challenge the content of an EHCP.
If you are considering getting an assessment as part of the process of identifying needs, and/or challenging the content of an EHC Plan and appealing to SENDIST, you need an individual who is experienced in providing advice to inform an EHCP.
Private assessments can be expensive. And whilst there are many professionals assessing children and young people, not all will be working in the context of supporting SEND appeals and tribunals to ensure the right needs and provision are in place, and that information is presented in the right way to support that process.
So how do you know?
Here’s a few hints and tips:
- Get a recommendation. Ask others in your network who have been through the process. Particularly if those parents have had to rely on those reports to inform an EHC Plan or they’ve been through an appeal.
- Will they be conducting formal assessments for the purpose of informing an EHCP format? An observation won’t be enough to ensure needs are thoroughly understood. Formal assessments are important particularly if you are challenging the report that an LA professional has provided. LA professionals do not always conduct formal assessments.
- Will they be able to provide a comprehensive report that is suitable to inform an EHC Plan as it relates to Section B (needs), Section F (specific and detailed provision to meet every needs), Section E (outcomes) and a view on the type of setting that is required?
- If they are recommending specialist placements, they will need to qualify why and it will be helpful to provide insight into why your child cannot manage in a mainstream setting. This area will come under considerable scrutiny due to the costs involved so it’s important that it sets out valid reasons based on the expert’s findings.
- Are they willing to attend hearings as a witness if you need to appeal a LA decision? Witnesses can be key, if the area of their advice is what the LA is objecting to in your case.
- Ask where they will be assessing your child, as it is important that they see a child in a school setting so that they can see for themselves how your child is presenting in school. If your child is not in school, are they happy to come to your home, if they do not have a location for you to attend? Assessments were conducted on line during the lockdown so find out what your options are.
- Be prepared to send over any information you already have to help them with understanding the background and context of the difficulties. Many needs overlap one another and it’s important they know as much as possible about your child or young person.
- Getting your own expert advice isn’t cheap. Ask them for their costs so you understand what they expect. Do they charge for hearings for example? And what is their cancellation policy if they are not needed at a tribunal?
- Ask if they will provide a report draft so you can discuss it and raise any questions before it is issued.
- Book well in advance. good people get very booked up. but don’t book too early that your advice goes out of date. Evidence that is more than a year old is often regarded as out of date.