When and how to identify the lead professional
It is recommended that a lead professional be identified at the review meeting where the request for a needs assessment is discussed and is clearly written into the assessment request. Anyone can be a lead professional. It is important that it is someone the family trusts and who is available to take on the role. For children at school, the SENCo or another member of school staff may be the most obvious person as they may well know the child best, however each child is different and it could also be Portage worker, a speech and language therapist, a family member, or independent supporter – to name a few possibilities. It is worth noting that although a family may request that a professional take on the role of lead professional, that professional is not obliged to accept. Some feel that they do not have the time or expertise to be able to support the process in this way. In this case the family may consider asking someone else or managing the coordination on their own behalf. For families that do not have someone who can act as lead professional and do not feel able to manage the role themselves they are strongly recommended to seek support from the independent supporters or a voluntary sector organisation that has knowledge of the EHCP process. Some families or young people may decide that they do not want to nominate a lead professional at all (the role is optional).
Why have a lead professional?
The lead professional role is available for the entire lifetime of an EHCP, although who takes this role will change over time as the child grows and circumstances change. The lead professional is a contact point for parents and families who will help ensure that the provision of services and support are joined up and that the input needed for an EHCP plan is coordinated. They can also act as advocates for the family or young person where there are concerns or issues around the process or the content of the plan. The lead professional is a person who the parent, carer and/or young person feel comfortable working with and vice versa. They may have some professional or therapeutic expertise from which the family can learn as they navigate their path through SEND support. It is helpful for the lead professional to know and understand the background of the family. This can be particularly helpful for the family in reducing the need to re-tell their story. Following meetings, the lead professional is able to re-visit the discussion with the family and reassure them about agreed actions, rationale and next steps (as appropriate). They will raise concerns with relevant services as/if appropriate although they are not accountable for the actions of other professionals or services.
What does the lead professional do?
- Acts as a main point of contact for the child and the family.
- Supports families in ensuring that all needs are properly identified and that suitable outcomes for the child or young person are included in the EHCP.
- Keeps an overview of the case and be included in communication about what is happening.
- Using their knowledge of the overall situation, helps to identify any concerns or issues.
- Supports families in ensuring that agreed actions are carried out.
- Hears concerns from parents and help to signpost them in terms of services or facilitate communication with others as needed.
- Reduces overlap and inconsistency.