When it comes to Education Health Care Plans (EHCP, England) and Statements (Wales) there’s a very common pattern I see as an independent Speech & Language Therapist and expert witness…

Step 1 – Discharge child from NHS Speech & Language Therapy (anytime prior to the Statutory Assessment) for a plethora of reasons (some needs led but, from my experience, mostly provision led).

Step 2 – When the Local Authority (LA) requests a SLT report as part of the Statutory Assessment / review the child is “no longer known” or “never known” to SLT.

Step 3 – If parents can afford to, instruct an independent SLT to assess the child and provide objective needs led recommendations. This report is sent to the LA as part of parental evidence.

Step 4 – Hey Presto! The LA returns with a request for the NHS SLT to assess said child and provide a report.

Step 5 – The NHS SLT informally assesses the child (usually informal as the independent SLT has carried out the formal assessment and this can’t be repeated for 6 months) and provides a report that totally disregards the independent SLTs recommendations and 9.9 times out of 10 recommends a Learning Support Assistant delivering a SLT programme and the school being able to access SLT advice “as and when required”.

Step 6 – On the run up to the Tribunal date the LA and NHS SLT are adamant that their recommendation for SLT are what the child needs and the independent SLT’s recommendations “have no evidence base” and may be as far as “over provision”. The Head of Service SLT may even write a letter to the LA outlining their considerable experience (failing to state they don’t actually know the child and don’t actually work clinically themselves much anymore); confirming the NHS SLT report is appropriate and the independent SLT report is not.

Step 7 – As the Tribunal date gets closer here is where we have a few possible scenarios i) the LA + NHS SLT ask to speak to the independent SLT and “negotiate”; ii) the LA + NHS SLT offer exactly what the independent SLT recommended or iii) at the Tribunal both SLTs put their evidence to the panel and the panel decides. Oh and iv) I’ve had a LA + NHS SLT accept my recommendations in full on the day of the Tribunal after hearing my evidence!

NB at the tribunal itself more often than not the LA’s expert witness SLT is a NHS SLT manager who has never met the child.

For those families reading this the above will be all too familiar to them unless they stop at Step 2 because they trust the LA and NHS that their child doesn’t in fact have any Speech & Language needs (despite their own concerns and the diagnosis their child has).

Don’t give up!