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Education, health and care plans (EHCP)

Some children and young people with special educational needs may need more support than a mainstream education setting (schools, colleges, nurseries) can generally offer. This could include:

  • Adjustments to daily routines within the school or college
  • Extra time to do things
  • Physical adjustments to the establishment
  • Support in a smaller group or individually
  • 1-1 support for some or all of the school week
  • Education in a specialist school outside of mainstream provision

Local authorities have to set out what support is available in readily available information called 'the local offer'. This should also provide information on how you can request an education health care assessment

An education, health and care (EHC) needs assessment is the first step in considering whether an education health and care plan – EHCP is required to meet the needs of a child. 

This assessment is a legal process carried out by the local authority. It needs to take account of the parent and child’s wishes and feelings and is different to other assessments that teachers, a doctor or other professionals may arrange for your child.

You may have reports which can feed into the EHC assessment (for example a report providing a diagnosis for your child).

Who should have an EHC needs assessment?

A local authority must conduct an assessment of education, health and care needs when it considers that it may be necessary for special educational provision to be made for the child or young person in accordance with an EHC plan.

For example, your child may need a lot of adult support for most or all of the school day. They might need a large amount of help from other professionals, such as speech therapy. Your child may need to go to a special school where staff have the training and expertise to support their learning.


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Requesting an assessment for an education, health and care plan

How does the EHC needs assessment process start?

Parents, young people over 16 or a school or college can make a formal request for an EHC needs assessment:

The local authority will want to see evidence that your child needs more support for their special educational needs than a mainstream education setting can normally provide.

You should explain your child's difficulties, describe any extra support your child has already received and say why you feel your child needs more help – you should think about:

Your child's early years

  • When did you first noticed any problems - big or small?
  • Did you tell anyone? What help or advice did you get?

Your child now

  • Health: eating, sleeping, illnesses, tiredness, depression, panic attacks
  • Physical skills: walking, climbing, handwriting, using scissors
  • Communication: hearing, gestures, eye contact, speech: describing things, talking to people, using the telephone, taking messages
  • Personal skills: dressing, washing, dealing with pocket money, time-keeping, remembering to pack sports kit/or pencil case
  • Behaviour: showing anxiety or frustration, problems with concentration
  • Your child at home
  • Watching TV, reading, hobbies
  • Outside activities: clubs, sports
  • Relationships: parents, brothers and sisters, other adults, friendships
  • Behaviour at home: sharing, listening, fighting with siblings, moods, tantrums
  • Homework: difficulty remembering what to do, or finishing in the set time
  • Your child at school or college
  • What lessons or activities does your child enjoy?
  • Friendships, relationships with teachers
  • Problem areas: lessons, playtime, new teacher, change in routine
  • Extra help which has worked or not worked for your child
  • Are your child's difficulties getting worse? Does any particular incident or piece of work illustrate your child's difficulties?
  • What help do you think your child needs?

Your child's views

  • Does your child enjoy going to school? What do they like best?
  • What would they like to achieve? What makes it hard for them to do this?
  • What help does your child think they need?

The local authority must tell you in writing within six weeks whether or not they are going to assess your child.

What happens during an EHC needs assessment?

The local authority gathers information about your child's needs from:

  • You and your child.
  • The nursery, school or college your child attends.
  • An educational psychologist.
  • Specialist teachers - for example if your child has a vision or hearing impairment.
  • Health and social care services.
  • Others whose views may be important.
  • For a child in Year 9 (age 14) or above, advice about preparing for adulthood and independent living

The local authority does not have to seek further information from professionals if this has been provided recently. However, any existing reports would need to meet the requirements of the assessment process in order to be used. They must have detailed information about your child's needs, the support or provision they require, and how the support will make a difference to your child. If not, an appropriate report should be sought.

The local authority must help your family, including your child, to take part in the process. They must provide you with any information, advice and support you need to do this.

If you have already provided information about your child as part of your request, you don't need to repeat this, but you can send in new information if you want to. You can send in other reports if you have them, for example a report from an independent professional. You can also ask the local authority to seek information about your child from someone who has not been contacted before. For example, you may want to request that a report is prepared by a relevant expert e.g.:

  • Speech and language therapist
  • Occupational therapist
  • Psychologist
  • Psychiatrist

 The local authority will gather information about your child's social care needs as part of the EHC needs assessment. If your family is not already getting support from children's services, you can ask your local authority to do a separate assessment to decide if you or your child need support at home or in the community.

After the assessment

Once the assessment has been carried out, the local authority must decide whether to issue an EHC plan.

If the local authority decides to issue an EHC plan

Following the completion of the assessment steps will be taken to prepare a draft EHC plan. You have 15 days to put forward your views to the local authority about the contents of the plan. The final plan must be issued within a maximum of 20 weeks of the initial request.

If the local authority refuses to give your child an EHC plan

An EHC needs assessment does not always lead to a child or young person receiving an EHC plan. For example, the local authority might decide that the child's or young person's needs can be met by the school in other ways.

If the local authority are not going to make a plan, they must write to you within 16 weeks to tell you this. You will have the right to appeal, and the local authority must give you information about this.

Challenging decisions not to assess

What if the local authority refuses to do an assessment?

The local authority may refuse to undertake an assessment if they don't think your child needs special educational needs provision. They may feel that there is not enough evidence that your child's difficulties are severe enough. Or they may decide that a mainstream education setting can provide all the support your child needs.

If your child has been refused an EHC needs assessment, you can appeal this decision to an independent tribunal within two months of the date on your decision letter, or one month from the date of the mediation certificate - whichever is later.

Mediation must be considered before any tribunal application is commenced. It is also open to seek to negotiate with a local authority. In many cases, where time allows a letter will be sent to the local authority setting out areas of dispute and seeking to negotiate an agreed outcome.

What does an EHC plan/draft EHC plan look like?

There is no national standard format for the EHC plan. However it must have certain sections that are clearly labelled.

The sections are:

A: The views, interests and aspirations of you and your child
B: Special educational needs (SEN)
C: Health needs related to SEN
D: Social care needs related to SEN
E: Outcomes - how the extra help will benefit your child
F: Special educational provision (support)
G: Health provision
H: Social care provision
I: Placement - type and name of school or other institution
J: Personal budget arrangements
K: Advice and information - a list of the information gathered during the EHC needs assessment
If you disagree with the contents of the draft plan then this should be raised with the local authority and you need to set out the parts which are disputed. The local authority should pay regard to the comments in preparing a final EHC plan.

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